Archive | May, 2012

Assange in Sweden: the facts

31 May

The origins of Julian Assange’s current legal predicament are all too easily forgotten in the drama of his ongoing appeal against Sweden’s request that the UK extradite him to answer allegations of sexual misconduct in that country. However, in the opinion of this opinionista, they are crucial to the story, and what we might make of it. With the invaluable assistance of the BBC News Europe I’ve gone back to the beginning.

11 August 2010

Julian Assange arrives in Sweden on a speaking trip partly arranged by “Miss A”, a member of the Christian Association of Social Democrats. He has not met “Miss A” before but reports suggest they have arranged in advance that he can stay in her apartment while she is out of town for a few days.

14 August 2010

“Miss A” and Mr Assange attend a seminar by the Social Democrats’ Brotherhood Movement on “War and the role of media”, at which the Wikileaks founder is the key speaker. The two reportedly have sex that night.

17 August 2010

Mr Assange reportedly has sex with a woman he met at the seminar on 14 August, identified as “Miss W”.

Some time between 17 and 20 August, “Miss W” and “Miss A” – the woman who arranged his speaking trip – are in contact and apparently share with a journalist the concerns they have about aspects of their respective sexual encounters with Mr Assange.

18 August 2010

Mr Assange applies for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden. He hopes to create a base for Wikileaks there, because of the country’s laws protecting whistle-blowers.

20 August 2010

The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office issues an arrest warrant for Julian Assange. Karin Rosander, head of communications, says there are two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation.

Both women reportedly say that what started as consensual sex became non-consensual.

Wikileaks quotes Mr Assange as saying the accusations are “without basis” and that their appearance “at this moment is deeply disturbing”. A later message on the Wikileaks Twitter feed says the group has been warned to expect “dirty tricks”.

21 August 2010

The arrest warrant is withdrawn. “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape,” says one of Stockholm’s chief prosecutors, Eva Finne.

Ms Rosander says the investigation into the molestation charge will continue but it is not a serious enough crime for an arrest warrant.

The lawyer for the two women, Claes Borgstrom, lodges an appeal to a special department in the public prosecutions office.

31 August 2010

Mr Assange is questioned by police for about an hour in Stockholm and formally told of the allegations against him, according to his lawyer at the time, Leif Silbersky. The activist denies the charges.

1 September 2010

Swedish Director of Prosecution Marianne Ny says she is reopening the rape investigation against Mr Assange, eleven days after a chief prosecutor announced the arrest warrant had been dropped. Ms Ny is also head of the department that oversees prosecution of sex crimes in particular.

“There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” she says in a statement. “Considering information available at present, my judgement is that the classification of the crime is rape.”

Ms Ny says the investigation into the molestation claim will also be extended. She tells AFP that overturning another prosecutor’s decision was “not an ordinary (procedure), but not so out of the ordinary either”.

18 October 2010

The Wikileaks founder is denied residency in Sweden. No reason is given, although an official on Sweden’s Migration Board tells the AFP news agency “he did not fulfil the requirements”.

18 November 2010

Stockholm District Court approves a request to detain Mr Assange for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. Sweden’s Director of Prosecution Marianne Ny says he has not been available for questioning.

Mr Assange’s British lawyer Mark Stephens says his client offered to be interviewed at the Swedish embassy in London or Scotland Yard or via video link. He accuses Ms Ny of “abusing her powers” in insisting that Mr Assange return to Sweden.

20 November 2010

Swedish police issue an international arrest warrant for Mr Assange via Interpol.

30 November 2010

Interpol issues a “red notice” for Mr Assange, asking people to contact police if they have any information about his whereabouts.

8 December 2010

The Wikileaks founder gives himself up to London police and is taken to an extradition hearing at a Westminster court. He is remanded in custody pending another hearing on 14 December.

Below are extracts from a witness statement written by Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, to his English counterpart, Mark Stephens on December 14, 2010. The pdf  can be accessed here: “downgraded to ’minor rape’

The case is one of the weakest cases I have ever seen in my professional career.

I have been refused access to the [full case file] orally, by Ms Ny, the Swedish Prosecutor. I know that the file contains extremely important exculpatory material, for example showing the fundamental inconsistencies in the complainants’ accounts of the key events.

In my opinion it is highly uncertain whether Mr Assange will be prosecuted at all, if extradited. If prosecuted, I consider it highly unlikely that he will be convicted.

I can confirm that I have been trying for many weeks to arrange for [Mr Assange] to be questioned by Ms Ny. All these attempts have been rebuffed by her. 

[Here follows a time line in which Mr Hurtig lists these attempts, and the excuses proffered by Ms Ny in refusal, including that she wanted a specific policeman to interview Assange, and he was not available.

On September 15 2010, Ms Nye confirmed to Mr Hurtig that Mr Assange was free to leave Sweden.]

Mr Hurtig continues: I also think it unreasonable that in a case of this kind, where extensive mutual assistance between the UK and Sweden would readily permit a video-link interview, for the prosecution to be so absolutely insistent that Mr Assange return (and at his own expense) to face questions that could easily be put over the video-link. [Assange has many times offered to do this, and offered to engage in interviews with Swedish officials in the UK. The Swedish authorities have consistently refused these offers, demanding extradition instead.]

I note that at least one of the complainants have been interviewed by telephone and the insistence that Mr Assange come back to Sweden merely for an interview is, therefore, unreasonable and contrary to the decision of our Supreme Court (NJA 2007, p. 337).

In his interview with human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson on the 7.30 Report yesterday, ABC TV’s Chris Uhlmann repeatedly referred to “the charges” against Assange. Mr Robertson corrected him, explaining that no charges have been laid against Assange. Allegations have been made. The Swedish authorities wish to extradite him for questioning about those allegations, having refused point-blank all other methods of interview.

After questioning Mr Assange, a decision will be made as to whether or not there are grounds for proceeding to charge him.

This process has already been completed once in Sweden by Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne, who decided the complaints were not sufficiently serious to issue an arrest warrant.

Kathy Jackson. Journos as cannibals. Investigative bloggers. Leonard Cohen.

30 May

I’m reading a novel by Lionel Shriver ( of We need to Talk about Kevin fame) titled The New Republic. The blurb on the back claims the novel is about terrorism and personal magnetism. It does indeed deal with both, in that bitingly humorous fashion usually fuelled by deep anger, and contempt for the subjects. I won’t attempt to describe the convoluted plot, for to do so would be to ruin the story.

However, to my reader’s mind this novel is all about journalists and mainstream media, especially those who venture into theatres of conflict, and Shriver has not one good thing to say about them. For example:

“I’m a journalist,” she has a lead character, Barrington Saddler,  explain, “and journalists need news. Deprive them of it, and they go a bit barking. Deprive  them of news long enough, and they’ll make their own – much the way the starving will eventually turn to cannibalism.”

And this from his editor: “Journalists are parasites…on everyone else’s events. The worst thing that can happen to a correspondent is to start thinking of himself as a player. The hack who fancies himself a mover-and-shaker gets slipshod – thinks he’s covering his own story. Reporting is a humble profession, Mr Kellogg. Journalists -” Wallasek shrugged – “are History’s secretaries…a reporter’s not supposed to chip in his two cents.”

I find it significant that this novel is all about journalists, with terrorism and personal magnetism employed merely as vehicles to cynically explore the bleak terrain of mainstream media, but there’s no mention at all of this on the cover. Oh, BTW. It’s published by Harper Collins Fourth Estate.

And so to Peter Wicks’ latest expose of Kathy Jackson, her partner Michael Lawler, the HSU & FWA. Wixxy is doing an extraordinary job of investigative blogging without any of the resources or protections afforded to mainstream journalists. As Peter points out, with such limited resources he’s still been able to access flammable information about payments made by the HSU to Kathy Jackson, payments that beggar belief. These include over half a million dollars invoiced as “Key Management Personnel Compensation,” itemised only as “Employee benefits.” Kathy Jackson is the sole recipient.

Don’t miss reading Wixxy’s piece, published today in Independent Australia. Wicks provides all kinds of interesting links, including the connection between Jackson, FWA boss Michael Lawler, and Christopher Pyne, who were all spotted enjoying coffee together just last week. Why aren’t these matters receiving anything like the intense scrutiny given to Craig Thomson’s affairs? Why aren’t journos lurking beneath Jackson’s bathroom window while she takes a shower? How come the msm aren’t asking why Jackson’s child care centre whose staff do not wear uniforms, received money for their non-existent uniforms from the HSU? Are child care centres even in the HSU?

Why the mainstream media haven’t bothered to investigate these matters any further is a mystery. Idleness? Political pressure to refrain?

With a few outstanding exceptions, we don’t generally have investigative journalists, just an excess of self-regarding opinionistas. Thank god we do have bloggers.

Or maybe too many of our journos, like Shriver’s morally corrupt hacks,  are far too busy trying to be players?

Oh, and this has just been brought to my attention. I don’t know how reliable this source is, but it alleges Lawler belongs or belonged to Opus Dei. The thlot pickens.

Finally I am seriously disappointed in Barack Obama who has just awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour to Bob Dylan WHEN IT SHOULD HAVE GONE TO LEONARD COHEN. And yes, the medal can be awarded to non US citizens. I still take my hat off to you Leonard. Dylan is good, but you are better. Plus you don’t look as drug-fucked.

Accidental nudity

25 May

Lingerie Football

 

I know I won’t be buying tickets to watch the Lingerie Football League because I have no interest in football. If I did and the women were good at it, I’d probably think about it.

What I do know is that players wearing lingerie neither entices nor repulses me. I have concerns about injury to exposed flesh that would make me squirm in visceral sympathy were I to witness that. However, in my experience exposure to flesh is interesting for a nano second, unless I’m personally and privately engaged with that flesh, which is a whole other ball game, so to speak.

Commissioner of moral police Melinda Tankard Reist is outraged at the possibility of the Lingerie Football League coming to Australia, to the degree that she has ordered her troops to set up the usual petition and boycott of every business with an interest in promoting what they perceive as sexualisation of women in sport.

One of the claims made by Reist’s battalion is that women who wish to play football at this level are forced to do it in their underwear because there are no options available. This is apparently untrue. A small exaggeration, by those who don’t let the truth get in the way of their propaganda. In the US, home of the LFL, there are three women’s football leagues, none of which require their members to play in their undies. So presumably the women involved in LFL are there because they want to be.

You’d never know this from reading Reist’s rant on the subject. Once again, women are positioned as victims, forced by men into sexualised exhibitionism if they want to play their sport.

In this interview with Derryn Hinch, Reist admits that she doesn’t like beach volley ball either because the uniforms, while not styled by Victoria’s Secret, are nonetheless far too skimpy. Wearing skimpy garments is exploitative of women, the argument goes, who only want the chance to play their sport. Men don’t watch the sport they watch the women’s bums and breasts, desperately hoping for wardrobe malfunctions and a bit of accidental nudity.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is, it doesn’t seem so extraordinary. Heterosexual men are generally on the lookout for a glimpse of female flesh as far as I can tell, and I’ve yet to understand why that is regarded as offensive. Of course there are situations in which it is entirely offensive, but that isn’t every occasion and circumstance.

I have to admit that if I find myself trapped in a room with a television broadcasting the football, especially if it’s the Sydney Swans, I watch their bodies. I very much admire their athleticism and their bums. I suppose I’m objectifying them, but I mean them no harm. I also like to look at female athletes, especially the gymnasts. Human bodies can be powerfully beautiful. There is a very strong link in the human imagination between beauty, the erotic, and the sexual. When all is well with us we know better than to act out this link unless invited.

It is ludicrous to demand that the human gaze be bereft of sexual interest. To be sexually stirred by a human body is not to inevitably objectify. We are capable of simultaneous reactions: admiration and desire are companions.

The bottom line (sorry), as Helen Razer put it in a tweet yesterday, is that it’s demeaning to tell adult women they are being demeaned. One has to assume a position of  vast superiority in order to do this. Whatever their reasons, the women of the Lingerie Football League  have freely chosen their careers. Reist et al claim, as they always claim, that many women don’t know when they are being sexploited. These women are dumber than Melinda, in other words, and need to be taught what’s really going on here by taking their jobs away from them and telling them they don’t know their own minds.

This ongoing fight about sexualisation and objectification of adult women is really all about dress codes. As someone else said on Twitter, we wear bikinis to the beach, not bras and pants, but the amount of flesh revealed is the same. Reist and her gang start from the premise that the female body is a dangerous thing, dangerous for its inhabitants and dangerous for heterosexual men. Therefore it must be kept under control and one of the methods of control is how it is allowed to be clothed.

If to sexualise, that is to make sexual, is “wrong,” then it follows that sex outside of prescribed circumstances is wrong. To “sexualise” apparently means to display flesh and wear garments suggestive of the privacy of the bedroom.  If we “sexualise” the adult female we are apparently inciting heterosexual males who do not own her in marriage to inappropriate desire. Reist is primarily engaged in a form of attempted mind control: she doesn’t want men desiring women unless they are married to them. She is incapable of distinguishing between desire and objectification, therefore desire is her enemy.

I have no problem with Reist holding her opinions on sex and its purposes. She’s entitled to them. But what she must one day realise is that these opinions are not shared by everyone, and she has no right to attempt to impose them as the norm.

I give the final word to my friend H: “If we cannot do what we want with our own physical vessel (when it does no harm to others) we have/are nothing.”

 

Our new look

24 May

I find this blue enchanting. And everything is down the side, as requested. I think the other one was a little subdued for our raucous natures. I felt I’d have to live up to it’s elegant restraint, and I might not always be able to do that. It would have been so hard to write “fuck” on that background.

Casting the first stone: the Thomson affair

22 May

I don’t know if Craig Thomson is telling the truth. I don’t know if Kathy Jackson is telling the truth. I never know when Tony Abbott is telling the truth, and I’m not at all sure about Julia Gillard either.

That I don’t know when leaders are lying has been most forcefully brought home to me as we’ve witnessed self-righteous politicians and journalists, almost all united in their obsessive desire to get Craig Thomson for something, construct narratives that inevitably cast Thomson as guilty, because it suits their purposes.

I don’t know if any of the people responsible for governing our country and reporting on that governance tell the truth. I can’t even be bothered attempting to establish their veracity. It’s too exhausting. I’ll assume they are all liars until it is demonstrated otherwise.

What has also been most forcefully brought home to me throughout this saga is that we don’t seem to have many journalists anymore. We have opinionistas. I could count on the fingers of one hand the reports I’ve read that deal with the facts. Rather, the media is flooded with the subjective opinions of self-important commentators, most of whom, I strongly suspect, have their own barrows to push though they apparently feel  under no obligation to disclose what those barrows might contain.

These are the most powerful arguments I can make for leaving the Thomson matter to the courts, because when all around you are self-interested liars, the law is all that’s left. Even the law doesn’t guarantee that truth will out. But it’s our best shot. It’s all we’ve got.

This blog post unravels some of the complexities of the situation, the ones the mainstream media don’t report. As does this one. And this one. Why, I ask myself, are the self-appointed mainstream experts not discussing these aspects? Isn’t it something of a moral crime to deliberately omit large chunks of a story?

No matter what Thomson has or hasn’t done, the witch hunt continues to be ferocious. To my mind, the authenticity of Kathy Jackson’s claims is equally tenuous, but we have not seen anything like the same ferocity directed at her. The public attacks on Thomson are astounding, whipped up by politicians and media, and why? Because we have a minority government. Would anyone give much of a stuff about the internal upheavals of a branch of the HSU if we didn’t?

Thomson is accused of serious misconduct. Unfortunately, this is not an unprecedented event amongst MPs from all parties. As things stand today, I’m more sickened by the fake outrage swirling around Thomson, perpetrated by politicians and much of the media. I doubt there’s many among this crowd in a position to cast the first stone. I don’t care what any one of them “thinks” about Thomson’s guilt. There’s not one of them whose opinion I trust or respect.

And this is the real lesson of the Thomson saga: that our public discourse is dominated by a bunch of self-interested thugs who care nothing for the truth and are entirely unwilling to permit an environment in which the truth can emerge. Whatever the outcome with Thomson, he has been punished already way beyond his alleged crimes, and the punishment will continue for the rest of his life and the lives of his family members. This punishment has not been sanctioned in the courts. It is entirely arbitrary and administered by an unrelenting moral lynch mob.

For the politicians and journalists feeding off this saga there will be no punishment for their moral failures. There will be no punishment for their destruction of the presumption of innocence on which our system of justice is based. This, to my mind, is the biggest crime in this sorry mess, and the one most likely to be ongoing in its capacity for moral destruction.

Dear Joe Hockey

21 May

Dear Joe Hockey,

Meet Archie. According to you Archie has the ideal parental configuration, that is, he has a male and a female parent as his primary carers.

Note I don’t say he has a “mother and father.” That’s because in my experience the attributes the dominant culture (as represented by you in this instance) associates with mothers and fathers aren’t necessarily founded in biology, rather they are cultural constructs and as such, can be assumed by either sex. I have seen male parents in my family engage in “mothering” while I’ve witnessed female parents happily “fathering” away and nobody much cares, as long as the babies are getting what they need.

While Archie meets your standards in terms of immediate family, after that it gets a little wild. This fortunate infant has four grandmothers, two of whom are called Jennifer because one grandfather married the same name twice, though not simultaneously because as yet, nobody’s done polygamy. I don’t see this in our futures either, as the women in our extended family are exceptionally feisty, and most of us see polygamy as favouring the male of the species. The prospect of having more than one male partner at a time leaves us uninspired, though several of us have engaged in serial monogamy.

That being said, Archie does have Mormon-by-marriage cousins in the US, albeit lapsed.

Archie also has five cousins whom we all call the Caramels, owing to their Indian mother and Anglo-Celtic father. These parents were married in two ceremonies, one Catholic and one Hindu. Archie himself recently enjoyed a Catholic baptism and an atheist Name Day, to cater for the disparate choices of his nearest and dearest. All four grandmothers were present including the bisexual one, and nobody got into any recriminatory fights.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. One of Archie’s great-aunts is also bisexual, and her partner is transgender.

Archie’s parents both work and the extended family as a whole has a strong work ethic, even the sexually adventurous among us. We are all good citizens paying our taxes and staying out of jail.

As yet, we have no idea how Archie will decide to express his sexuality. We don’t much care.

However, all us four grandmothers  love him with a ferocity you don’t want to mess with. If anybody like you tries to put Archie down because of who he loves, they’ll have us to contend with.

Until I was seven, I was brought up by my grandparents. They were then forced to relinquish me to my birth mother and her new husband. A heterosexual pair. In that configuration I experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse that I barely survived. What I’m saying to you Mr Hockey, is that you and those who think like you are making too many assumptions, and there are too many of us with too much experience who will continue to challenge your assumptions, and we will win.

My family is a big family and we contain many differences. The babies in our family grow up accepting difference because it’s in the familial air they breathe. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

I am sorry for you and your kind, Mr Hockey. I am sorry for your small minds and shrivelled spirits. With my history, I know the miracle of finding human beings who love me and let me love them. I feel sorry for you, Mr Hockey, that you are compelled to judge and reject human beings who don’t fit your narrow vision of what families should be. Maybe if like me, you’d lived in darkness from which you never imagined you’d emerge, you wouldn’t be so damn picky.

I don’t think you will win this battle. There are too many of us who can say, echoing the magnificent words of Penny Wong: “I know what my family is worth.” I know what my hard-won family is worth, Joe Hockey. And none of us need you to tell us how we should be.

Politicians and forbidden sex

16 May

If you happened to be looking for a good curse to put on someone for a reason that makes sense to you, you couldn’t go much further than wishing an unfaithful partner on them. There’s nothing quite like the upheaval  of discovering a partner’s infidelity to rock your world in just about every way, and none of it feels good. It is an excruciating form of suffering and rather common, though when in its throes one feels entirely alone, and as if this has never happened to anyone else quite as badly as it’s happening to you.

I’m thinking long these lines after reading the latest story about “our secure marriage that withstands the pressures of political life,” this time from Bill and Chloe Shorten last weekend. The allegedly ugly and unspecified rumours are not for me to repeat, given my already tenuous legal situation. Let’s just say infidelity is one of the major temptations in many partnerships. Rumours of unfaithfulness often send public figures into a virtual frenzy of indignant denial, as well as what some might think of as unseemly revelations of their enduring closeness and commitment no matter what difficulties they encounter.

In the intimate and rarefied atmosphere of political life, sexual temptation must inevitably rear its enticing head. It can and does manifest in any workplace, often due to little more than proximity, however, throw in the tensions and hyper-excitement  of life lived in the political bubble and you have ideal conditions in which lust can thrive.

Sex is lovely. Sex is relief. Sex is gratification. Sex can make you feel better when nothing else can. Sex is celebration: think of the victory root on somebody’s office desk. It is also consolation, when everything is going wrong and people hate you. Really, there’s not much sex doesn’t ease, albeit temporarily.

Is it any of our business if politicians are sexually unfaithful to their partners? There’s a good argument on this here, and some comments are interesting as well. I think whether its our business or not is largely out of our control: some of us will make it our business, the media will make it our business, a jilted lover will  make it our business, a scorned partner will make it our business, a love child will make it our business, and so on. In short, if you are a politician and you have an affair there is the most enormous likelihood that we will find out about it and judge you, generally in the negative.

We are hard on our politicians, and perhaps rightly so. Many of them seduce us with their “family values” and their claims of moral integrity. We are not pleased when they are revealed to have feet of clay. In the popular imagination the unfaithful partner is harshly judged: there are those among us for whom infidelity is practically a hanging offence. An unfaithful politician is doubly judged, perhaps. If she/he is willing to go to such lengths to deceive those closest, why should we trust them in public office? It’s a reasonable question, but of course people are infinitely capable of compartmentalising, and how they conduct themselves in their private lives need have nothing to do with how they behave publicly. John Howard, for example, was a devoted family man and cared about the Aussie battlers. He had no compunction at all, however, about locking up refugees and their children indefinitely for the fabricated crime of seeking asylum.

A politician should be aware that if she or he undertakes an illicit affair, the fall out might be catastrophically public. Not only will they have a devastated partner and maybe family, a possible jilted lover and all the rest of the accoutrements of infidelity, they’ll have the public to contend with as well. There is nothing that can be done to protect them from these outcomes. They are on their own. Whether it’s our business or not, we’ll all have an opinion.

Of course many partnerships survive infidelity, some even claim to have be strengthened by the trauma. But political careers? Well, Bill Clinton’s survived. I’d advise pollies to think very carefully before they embark on an affair, but that would be a waste of time. The very hallmark of the affair is that one does not generally enter into it through using one’s head. Its another part of the anatomy entirely that’s involved.

 

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