Send for the mullahs
23 October 2012
For a generation that’s grown up with the notion that US foreign policy was fundamentally opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, this may come as a shock: US foreign policy is swinging relentlessly towards an accommodation, even, in places, an actual alliance, with the jihadis.
The new Rum Corps
Who or what is Infrastructure NSW?
9 October 2012
On the surface INSW is a government body, but look deeper and it’s no more than a front for the most rapacious private sector players. This pirate team have been given what’s virtually a blanket exemption from laws relating to conflict of interest because the Premier can allow any member of the board to take part even in decisions where he or she has a pecuniary interest. The line between private and public – so necessary for honest, transparent and efficient governance has been hopelessly blurred.
The innocence of Mossad
25 September 2012
The young Sunni militants who rioted outside Sydney’s US Consulate are dumb. Really dumb. They were easily tricked into doing exactly what the makers of Innocence of Muslims wanted them to do.
A million threatened acres
11 September 2012
Those who fought to preserve the Pilliga are feeling angry. Their efforts over many years appeared to have paid off with the addition of a few “state conservation reserves” to the existing national parks and nature reserves, but it turned out the new reserves just allowed the National Parks and Wildlife Service to look after them until it was time for the frackers to cut a grid of roads through them and destroy their natural values. “State conservation reserve” meant reserved for mining.
And that was the mining boom …
28 August 2012
It had only been only a few days since some fat-cat bank chairman on several million a year (plus bonus) advocated cutting the dole to force the feckless unemployed to get off their arses to go and live in a shipping container in some hell-hole on the outskirts of a remote Western Australian mine, when suddenly, the mining boom was staring down into the abyss.
Why spend $12 billion to satisfy a couple of thousand idiots?
14 August 2012
“Nick Greiner’s absolutely nuts” said Tarkis through a mouthful of Joadja’s special $8.50 vegetarian breakfast wrap. “He wants to dig up Parramatta Road for about ten kilometres, six or eight lanes wide, to sink a tollway under it. That’d take a decade at least, and what’s petrol going to cost by then?”
A media provocateur exposed
31 July 2012
The media is full of shills, but some people have more form than others, I reflected, as I read up on the latest case exposing the fine line between agent provocateur and journalist.
Crategate dogs Mitt Romney’s run for president
17 July 2012
The would-be president also makes money from imported coats made from dog and cat fur. A dozen years years after “retiring” from Bain Capital, the investment firm he founded, Mitt Romney still reaps millions of dollars a year and not a little of that comes from Burlington Coat Factory, which is currently under investigation for “mislabelling” fur coats that have been proven to include the skins of dogs and cats killed in China.
A nation of losers
3 July 2012
Every now and then I wander over to the Sydney Hotel on the other side of Sydney Street to check out the scene ...
When I went back a couple of days ago, the huge power-guzzling screens that were normally on a motor racing or rugby league feed were juggling between channels looking for the first signs of carbon tax disaster. A whole mob of pissed Angry Andersons with bad tatts and Jack Daniels’ tee shirts were gathered around, cheering the occasional appearance by Tony Abbott.
Terrain, terrain! … pull up, pull up!
A requiem for the airline industry
26 June 2012
I was wandering across a blackened, smoking, urban landscape, strewn with mangled remains of jet engines, wings, seats, luggage. There were men in high-vis gear picking through the ruins, which stretched as far as I could see. The whole airline industry had augered in – crashed and burned.
The Coalition of the Disappearing
12 June 2012
So here we are now with a token force in the wilds of Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province and gosh, we’re being accorded the huge honour of leading the whole disappearing commitment of similarly risible contingents from two-bit players like Singapore and the Slovak Republic, and even a handful of yanks.
Enough with the fatuous point scoring, just fix the trains
29 May 2012
The critical issue that can no longer be avoided is the need for additional rail capacity across the Harbour Bridge and through the CBD and a solution must come soon because the splendid heavy rail system bequeathed to us by John Job Crew Bradfield is effectively at capacity.
From feral Keynesianism to social revolution
15 May 2012
Nicolas Sarkosy has fallen, and Angela Merkel looks like being next, as a majority of Europeans reject austerity policies that mean that millions of citizens will never work again and face a life of penury and hopelessness.
The curious incident of the dogs in the night-time
1 May 2012
“Dogs. We used to hear dogs barking, barking, far into the night … and we hardly hear them nowadays.”
We all fell silent for a while and indeed not a single yap broke the silence.
"Yeah, I think you’re right. Dogs must be getting quieter. But why?” I mused.
The Pied Piper of Paris
17 April 2012
Willie Brigitte has been arrested again. You remember Willie? Maybe you’d just started high school then. Whatever. Willie was the young French islamist arrested in Sydney way back in 2003. For a few months he’d been a close associate of Abu Hamza, the Pakistani-Australian architect convicted in 2005 of acting in preparation for a terrorist offence.
This time around, Willie has been arrested along with 16 others who he’d apparently led on jihad training exercises in the woods outside Paris.
The arts of darkness
3 April 2012
The US Government was negotiating with Australia for the use of the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean as a base for drone flights over the Middle East and the South China Sea. It was a snake-belly low moment in our long dishonourable history of grovelling to the Yanks.
Metro Transport buyout clears the way for a light rail future
27 March 2012
Down at the Brushtail Café the news that the O’Farrell Government had bought out Metro Transport Sydney, owners of the monorail and operators of the light rail, was greeted with almost saturnalian rejoicing. Drinks were on the house and Joadja herself got quite tipsy.
The mainstream media focussed on the decision to pull down the monorail, but the big story was the Liberal government’s de-privatisation of the light rail service.
Carr and Greiner rise from the grave
13 March 2012
“Speaking of grubby two-facedness and corpses rising”, I said. “What about Gillard resurrecting Bob Carr? This is the bloke who gave us spin-cycle managerialism and the shambolic government that led the NSW ALP to disaster; the bloke who gave us Obeid, Tripodi, Costa and Roozendaal, to name but a few. When he got himself into the media saying good things, you knew he was about to do the opposite”.
Art school with the Taliban
28 February 2012
In the hapless Afghanistan, George Gittoes, Australia’s extremely famous war artist and guerrilla film-maker was improbably roaming the Taliban-controlled backblocks. There was George gazing out of the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald wearing a silly hat, with a midget in one hand and a monkey in the other. It seems he’d popped up at Tora Bora – where Osama bin–Laden himself used to hang out – with some sort of circus troupe. George was dispensing fun and love all round and there were hugs for the local Talibs.
The neo-nazi origins of an email hoax
15 February 2012
It popped into my email inbox the other day. Maybe it popped into yours. It was one of those Powerpoints that go viral, that everybody passes on to their list. You know the sort of thing: cute dogs, outrageous wedding pics, extreme feats of engineering. But this one was different.
The hotelier, the hitman and the shock jock
1 February 2012
They’re letting Andrew Kalajzich out of jail soon. It’s been 25 years since the Manly hotelier, Chamber of Commerce president and Tourism Commission bigshot went down for his part in the 1986 murder of his wife, Megan, who was shot twice in the head as she slept. The big iron door closed on Kalajzich a couple of years later.
The hit itself is a complex tale of pure hubris and dumb lunacy that would be grimly comic if it wasn’t for the long and, for the taxpayer, very expensive , campaign run by shock jock Alan “The Parrot” Jones to overturn Kalajzich’s conviction.
Why back the car industry, when you could back the future
17 January 2012
“But this is what gets me –”, said Joadja, when Jesse and I arrived back at the Brushtail Café for lunch, “I’ve got no problem with the government backing an industry with assistance, subsidies and so on, but if we’re going to back a manufacturing industry, why the car industry? The bugger is facing a long lingering decline.
Christopher Hitchens and the call of the dark side
In death, Christopher Hitchens has been hailed in the world’s conservative media as a great “public intellectual”. The term, which seems to derive, by analogy, from ‘public woman’ – a euphemism of polite Victorian society – is curiously appropriate for the one-time fair-weather leftist whose rightward evolution turned him into an enthusiastic apologist for the Iraq war.
The hunt for Malcolm Naden
Shooting into the dark and hoping something squeals
13 December 2011
When I went down to the Brushtail Café for breakfast Bruce from the advertising agency was sprawled out over the long table with the papers and a full English breakfast.
“Geez, the cops are hopeless, did you see they were within metres of this Malcom Naden bloke but he got away – surely they could have thrown a roadblock around the place?” he declaimed, pointing at a photo of cops clad in low-visibility gear and much hung about with webbing and assault rifles.
NSW: there’s got to be something good about the place
29 November 2011
Jesus wept, it’s almost Christmas again, I thought as I sat outside the Brushtail Café nursing a cider. The rain was over, sunlight flooded into the lane, and a brisk nor-easter buffeted my tail.
It felt good to be a possum and alive, except for that nagging certainty at the back of the brain that we are teetering on the brink of many disasters. The decades of private excess, cheap credit and the looting of the public realm are at an end and the whole post World War II boom is grinding relentlessly into reverse.
Bringing the wars home
How the frackers are handing the fractious
15 November 2011
Ah, there’s nothing like the big industry conference for finding out the truth.
Australian opponents of the coal-seam gas industry should really take note of the goings-on at the US oil industry’s recent conference in Houston, Texas.
The big topic for the assembled frackers was how to handle the public in the areas in which they drilled and what came out wasn’t pretty. The big idea is that you treat opposition as “insurgency” and bring in some psy-war mercenaries.
Spiralling downwards into chaos
1 November 2011
It was just another week in the endless American wars. In Kabul a car bomb attack on a US military convoy killed at least thirteen. And three Australian soldiers were shot dead and seven wounded during a routine morning parade by a suicide attacker wearing an Afghan army uniform.
A false springtime across the Arab world
18 October 2011
It’s become fashionable to refer to the current turmoil in the Middle East as the Arab Spring – a reference to the “Springtime of the Peoples” that swept Europe in 1848. The analogy is interesting, if only because 1848 didn’t end too well.
Neither a biter nor a barker be
4 October 2011
“My God, there’s a dingo in the café! Run, run!”
A woman with a baby clutched tightly to her breast rushed out of the Brushtail Café, pushed past me, scurried down Werrong Lane, and disappeared around the corner into Sydney Street.
The whole world’s mad I thought, as I strolled into the café. First they let Nick Greiner head up Infrastructure NSW and now this.
Nick Greiner is a loose cannon on the gundeck of government
27 September 2011
Every spin doctor worth his salt knows you have to keep a sharp eye on the negative metaphor meter.
With his huge majority in parliament, Barry O’Farrell should be cruising along with the job of government, steadily implementing the backlog of public transport infrastructure left by his hopeless predecessors. Positive metaphors like “safe pair of hands” and “runs on the board” should be the order of the day but things are stalling and ghastly negative political metaphors are already piling up like Winston Churchill’s “terrible ifs” accumulating.
Weirdness and treachery on the ghost tram to Dulwich Hill
13 Sept 2011
All the talk was of the O’Farrell government’s deferral of the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill.
“Look at this!”, said Joadja. “Gladys Berejiklian now says they can’t finish it until 2014 and she reckons it’ll cost $176 million. Unbelievable.”
“Great Mother of Darwin!” I said “Another rail project ‘deferred’ on the point of going ahead! This is shaping up like the Carr, Iemma, Rees and Keneally governments all over again.”
Making the mean streets a lot kinder
30 August 2011
"Hey, here’s a dirty little secret that nobody in politics is talking about”, said Joadja.“Car traffic is flatlining in every capital city in the country”. It was a grey, miserably slow, afternoon in the Brushtail Café and we were finishing a bottle of cider with Stan, the retired colonel, and Old Possum.
How Zionist sponsorship of our politicians pays off
16 August 2011
Geez, if you thought the Zionists and their allies in the Murdoch media went to extraordinary lengths to target the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Marrickville, you should see what’s happening south of the border.
For the crime of attending a peaceful demonstration against a Max Brenner chocolate store and their support for Israeli apartheid, four Melbourne activists have been snatched from their homes in the small hours of the morning, locked in a holding cell, and forced to pay a combined total of $16,000 in surety to be allowed to leave.
John Howard, Paul Sheehan, and the road to the Oslo massacre
2 August 2011
Chickens don’t come home to roost more ironically than this, really: Norwegian Christian fundamentalist assassin Anders Breivik drew profound inspiration from the Australian political right.
Through the long northern winter evenings, Breivik trawled the web, downloading John Howard, Ross Cameron, Peter Costello, Cardinal Pell and Keith Windschuttle – admiring their actions and cutting and pasting their words into his 1500 page manifesto. That’s an awful lot of mentions for a small country like ours.
mX is a shameful waste of good trees
19 July 2011
Since we’re all in the mood to settle accounts with Rupert Murdoch’s Evil Empire, perhaps the time has come for right-thinking folks to demand the O’Farrell government kicks the wretched mX newspaper off CityRail property.
While the Sun King’s other Australian publications are noted for their hysterical campaigns on behalf of carbon polluters and profit-exporting mining giants, mX seems to be written for folk who’d find even Who Weekly challenging – something to engage an airhead’s eyes while they’re listening to Kylie on the iPod.
Nathan Tinkler’s life is far too complicated
5 July 2011
The past few months have not been kind to Nathan Tinkler, Australia’s richest man under 40. The embonpoint entrepreneur’s business deals are in turmoil. He’s withdrawn his offer to buy Hunter Street mall and his bid to acquire the Newcastle Knights football team has been acrimoniously on-again, off-again since February with no end in sight. Footy fans are getting restless.
Bearing ‘Christian witness’ in the state elections
28 June 2011
Hanson’s case hung on the evidence of a certain “Michael Rattner”, a tradie who claimed his girlfriend, an Australian Electoral Commission worker, had obtained an email exchange between two actual AEC officials to the effect that 1200 ballot papers with valid primary votes for Hanson had been put into the blank ballots pile. Copies of these emails were central to Hanson’s case.
But it all fell apart. When “Michael Rattner” presented himself in to police after failing to appear in court, he turned out to be Sean Castle and the AEC emails turned out to be a fraud.
A hundred years of bombing the Arabs
14 June 2011
It all started just three years after the Wright Brothers’ first public demonstration of powered flight in Paris in 1908, and oddly enough the Libyans were the first to suffer. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian attempt to annex what was then a lightly-administered Turkish possession.
On 26 October, 1911, pilot officer Giulio Gavotti dropped, by hand, four 2kg bombs from his biplane on the oases of Tagiura and Ain Zara near Tripoli.
God-damn the Pusher Man
31 May 2011
Some pretty big names have served on the boards of Big Tobacco but the name that stands out is former NSW Premier, Nicholas Frank Hugo Greiner. After he resigned as premier he became Australian chairman of BAT and WD & HO Wills. Did he know what he was involved in? You bet.
Killing a dead man
17 May 2011
Badshah Video Centre in Abbottabad hasn’t yet asked the CIA to pay the late fees on the enormous haul of unreturned movie blockbusters seized at Chez bin-Laden. In any case, they’re unlikely to get their money back because the Pakistani government’s diplomatic leverage over the US is at an all-time low.
A hellbroth in the Hunter
3 May 2011
Former Labor politician Michael ‘Mick’ Costa is not a nice man, but nobody deserves what happened , a few days ago, to his wife and two small children.
Bankster and winemaker hid behind philanthropy
15 April 2011
I trudged back to the Brushtail Café and sat outside in the lane, warming my fur, with a cider and the Sydney Morning Herald, and my eye fell on an obit for Macquarie banker, David Clarke, who’d died of cancer, aged 69.
Laid out in a well-laundered piece by Stuart Washington was a shimmering vision of a different sort of life. An upbringing on the North Shore. Knox Grammar. Sydney University. Economics. Rugby. Stockbroking. A founder of the Millionaire Factory. Chairman of the Australian Rugby Union. Order of Australia. Owner of a stunning winery. Award-winning restaurant. US-style philanthropy. Executive Chairman of Macquarie.
The new Benghazi Handicap
3 April 2011
“Without disciplined troops, the rebels will be defeated, no matter how much air power the coalition lays on. They’re an unbelievable shambles. A rabble of young men with no idea at all about warfare. Meanwhile, Gadaffi’s troops have held together well under the aerial bombardment and they’ve even adapted their tactics to minimise the effect of the West’s air supremacy. Now they’re using makeshift ‘gun trucks’ that look, from the air, the same as the rebels’ junk and they’ve made good use of the low cloud cover over the last couple of days to go back on the offensive. Very bold, very professional.”
Labor only went bad after Bob Carr resigned
A desperate myth for desperate times
29 March 2011
Before the polling booths closed last Saturday, even before they opened, long before the whole ghastly, long-expected political bloodbath unfolded, in fact, since the campaign began, the spinmeisters of the ALP have arriving as if by telepathy at a redemptive myth: the NSW Labor Government only went bad after Bob Carr resigned in 2005.
Treasury’s dirty little secret
15 March 2011
“Something is rotten in the NSW Treasury”, my client said. “Back in 2006, they were pricing the 21 kilometre North West Rail Link at about $1.4 billion. Now, they’re saying it’ll cost $7.5 billion. It’s just nuts. Look how much they pay for this sort of project overseas”.
She spread out some cost comparisons. “The NWRL is going to be mostly in tunnel. Based on recent examples, the Swiss would build it for far less than $2 billion. Ditto the Venezuelans. And then there’s Hosni Mubarak. Not a nice man, but he could build underground rail. He finished a 21 km section of the Cairo Metro not long ago. Difficult job, and it only cost $1.4 billion.”
Paul Sheehan and Scott Morrison
Dog-whistling in the gutter
2 March 2011
It’s a wonderful thing that some in the Liberal Party have finally had the bottle to challenge the shameful Muslim-baiting by the party’s immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison, and other leading Liberals. Thanks to the whistle-blowers we now know that in December last year Morrison urged the shadow cabinet to appeal to atavistic prejudices about Muslim immigrants and their supposed inability to integrate.
The revolution will be televised
15 February 2011
On Friday morning, 11 February, it was still before midnight, Cairo time, when the Brushtail Café opened. Joadja had set up a big flatscreen TV tuned to ABC 24, for those who wanted to watch the unfolding of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square.
Twenty-four hour news TV is mostly about repetition rather than news. Endlessly recycled reports from the two Marks – Willacy and Corcoran – were followed by a blond teenage business commentator who didn’t have a clue what would happen, economically speaking, and said so in as many words as possible.
The sad and terrible end of a brilliant political career
1 February 2011
“The collapse it comes real soon now and it will sweep the old regime as you say into the wheelie bin of history”, said Abdul the Cabbie as we sat outside the Brushtail Café in the sun sipping short blacks.
“Indeed”, I muttered. “First Tunisia, now Egypt. The masses at the barricades, riot police on the streets, tear gas grenades arcing across the sky, regime cronies besieging the airport check-in bound for Washington with their green cards in their pockets. It’s beginning to look like Arab Street’s version of 1848”.
“Actually, I was speak of our NSW government”, Abdul said.
The return of Saddam without the moustache
18 January 2011
As the US moves inexorably towards the exit in Iraq the signs are everywhere that the rival religious and secular factions are jocking for positions of power in preparation for a trial of strength that may lead to civil war, or, if the country’s lucky, merely a creeping coup d’etat and a new authoritarian regime.
Meanwhile, deep in the mangroves
6 January 2011
They say Sydney puts on the best fireworks in the world, they say this time round they were the best ever … but New Year’s Eve left me bored.
On New Year’s Day, Joadja and I got up early, for a bit of real soul food. We loaded our kayaks on the battered station wagon and headed down the Princes Highway to Turrella, where we splashed into Wolli Creek at the Henderson Street weir.
WikiLeaks fun has only just begun
249,992 documents still to go
14 December 2010
To hear some people tell it, the diplomatic WikiLeaks are just a damp squib – just backroom gossip fed to Washington from its listening posts around the world. “So diplomats tell bitchy stories about the folks running other countries … who would have thought?’ these critics carp. I doubt if Mark Arbib would dismiss the big document dump in the same glib way.
The view from Possum Point
2 December 2010
The sun rose in gorgeous soft pinks and glowing oranges over the glassy grey sea and through the morning mist sliding down the river. A light rain had fallen in the early hours and it dripped off the tips of the gum leaves and sparkled in the bracken and kangaroo grass.
A grimy year was drawing inexorably towards the silly season and Joadja and I had slipped out of Sydney to the old cottage at Possum Point.
The strange case of the vaporised bomber
and other grim stuff from the 7/7 bombings inquest
18 November 2010
It’s been a bit over five years since the 7 July London bombings and a coronial inquest under the stewardship of My Lady Hallett is underway. A miasma of evasion has hung about the proceedings, with the mainstream media doggedly refusing to notice some most alarming issues posed by answers to the cross-examination of witnesses. There is not one elephant in the courtroom but a whole herd.
Iraq War Logs throw new light on the Nick Berg mystery
3 November 2010
Until now, the story that alleged al-Qaeda victim Nick Berg was arrested at a routine Iraqi Police checkpoint has been unchallenged. But the official – and exhaustive – Iraq War Logs recently published by WikiLeaks show Berg was specifically targeted as a suspected terrorist cell leader in a 'cordon and search' operation by US forces. Earlier articles on the Nick Berg investigation at right ...
The mad publican of the Liberal Hotel
19 October 2010
Overthrowing Malcolm Turnbull and putting Crazy-Mad Abbott in charge of the Liberal Hotel was a retrograde step. Even Jolly Joe Hockey would have been a better publican. Why did they do it? Well, to hang onto the Alan Jones – Ray Hadley audience, the salute-the-flag-or-fuck-off-the-lottaya crowd. Nutty patriot, anti-scientific populist, religious obscurantist – with Abbott they got the full disaster.
Barangaroo is energy-intensive lunacy
5 October 2010
I learned a long time ago that wet long weekends were a good time to hunker down in the Brushtail Cafe. The place had had a new lease of life since Joadja decided to sell second-hand books and thus it was that I found myself sipping a long black and leafing through The History of the Future – Images of the 21st Century, a coffee-table job, published in 1993. It was, essentially, a collection of dreams of the present day as envisaged from the early 1800s on. And what struck me was how much some of the more demented visions of the 21st Century city actually resembled the NSW Government’s vision for Barangaroo.
He shadowed Martin Luther King to the mountaintop
28 September 2010
Ernest C Withers. He was the black photojournalist who, way back in the 1960s had instant access to everybody who mattered in the US civil rights movement. His photos of the key incidents and leaders of that turbulent time are classics. But all along he was a spy for the FBI, a footsoldier in J. Edgar Hoover’s “domestic intelligence” and dirty tricks program.
A tsunami of memory
14 Sept 2010
It’s been nine years since the events of 11 September 2001 and the US invasion of Afghanistan, nine years since I last encountered Bruce Possum.
Bruce was on the run from Laurie Connell’s enforcers when he slipped out of Australia in 1988. He left me his 9mm Browning automatic in an old tin box, carefully wrapped in a tie-dyed teeshirt he bought in 1970 at the Surry Hills Arts Factory. It was there with his ‘It’s Time’ badge from the ’72 election, ticket stubs from Hair, and a snapshot of himself with Bob Dylan at the disastrous Showground concert of April ’78. His last communication was taped to the lid: “So long partner. Have gone to Afghanistan. Sorry. Will make it up to you. Keep the gat”.
Twelve years is too long
30 August 2010
“Didja see this campaign the Wolli Creek mob are running?” said Joadja, indicating the community noticeboard on the back wall of the Brushtail Café.
I took my cider over for a look. Pinned up there were a couple of striking posters. They featured an angry Wolli Possum, a character that looked not unlike myself, holding up a placard that proclaimed “12 years is too long”. The message was simple: “In 1998 the NSW Government promised to protect the Wolli Creek Valley by making it a regional park … it still hasn’t happened.”
For the strawberries of the future and the memory of Vavilov
16 August 2010
The world over, dodgy developers are the same ignorant bunch, and their methods are usually the same. On Christmas Day, 2009 (are these people advised by the NSW Property Council?) the Russian Federal Agency for Public Estate Management – an agency of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development – sanctioned the termination of a perpetual, irrevocable, tenure over land granted to the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry and handed it over to a bunch of home developers, giving the Institute just three months to rescue what they could of the unique collection of rare fruit and berry plants collected by Vavilov and his associates since 1926 – an impossible task.
Work, Family, Nation
Gillard and Abbott race to the bottom
2 August 2010
This, surely, is the most depressing election in living memory, I thought, as I sat in the Brushtail Café, trying to warm myself with a long black and scratching through the papers.
On the mainstream side it’s a ghastly choice between a gibbering obscurantist clown who’d introduce a theocracy if he got half a chance and a smooth-talking, dog-whistling, Labor-faker. Both are foreign policy reactionaries and slavish supporters of the US alliance and the Zionist project.
Inception is dumb junk
Margaret’s dreaming, David’s lost the plot and Paul lives in a teenage fantasy
27 July 2010
I let my guard down when the Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul Byrne gave this lightweight guff four stars. Come in sucker. Not since Baz Luhrmann’s Australia has a sillier, more hyped, less satisfying, confection been foisted on an unsuspecting public. Unless you’re a teenage boy with a serious computer game problem, this one has fleas. It scratches with its hind foot. It’s a dish licker, a poo shooter, a leg humper … in short, a dog.
Tailing the Ikea generation
12 July 2010
I don’t often take matrimonial work, but there was something compelling about the plight of the young lady who came to see me. As per boringly usual, she was sure her husband was having an affair with somebody at work. There were the usual little things that wives notice: large chunks of money disappearing from his account; his Mastercard statements came with line items from jewellers and florists (which he passed off as birthday presents for ‘personal assistants’ and ‘business contacts’); weekend absences for interstate ‘business trips’ and ‘conferences’.
Her husband told her he was a ‘nomenclature engineering consultant’ for Ikea. As far as she knew they paid him about $150K a year to invent an endless succession of trendy product names. They had two kids, Skyppe and Hyppe and a labradoodle named Kkarma.
Exit past the cash register
Who, really, is Mister Brainwash?
28 June 2010
Exit Through the Gift Shop is a wonderful documentary … or is it, perhaps, the birth of a new genre, the prankumentary?
Light rail: the breakthrough
14 June 2010
"Ohhh, look down there. There’s Leichhardt, and Dulwich Hill over there, and I can see where the light rail’s going to run”. I craned my neck and peered past Joadja through the tiny cabin window. It was a bright Sunday morning and we were flying into Sydney after leaving Sodom-On-The-Swan at the ungodly hour of 5.45am.
Yes indeed, there it was, the old Rozelle Goods line, beside the Hawthorn Canal, crossing over Parramatta Road and under the Main Western Line, heading south towards Dulwich Hill station. Sometime early in 2012, we’d be seeing trams scooting down that line.
All unquiet on the Western Front
1 June 2010
“After all the gibber about this being ‘The Pacific Century’, it seems that it might be the Indian Ocean Century after all. We want Rudd to strengthen Australia’s military and strategic presence in the Indian Ocean region. I mean, it’s bleedin’ obvious: our gas fields are in the Indian Ocean and they’re set to be prime resources in the energy-starved world of the future."
Beware of activists with no baggage
18 May 2010
"Didja read this piece in the Observer newspaper about a Brit undercover cop who infiltrated supposedly violent anti-racist groups?” I asked Old Possum. The veteran lefty and I were hanging out in the Brushtail Café, drinking cider and picking through the overseas papers.
Trust the generals: peak oil is the future and the future is fraught
4 May 2010
Trust the soldiers, I thought. At least they’re ‘responsible’, in the special and limited sense that they’re always searching the horizon for the next threat. And their minds are particularly focussed by the fact that the tanks, the planes, the warships – the whole goddam war machine – runs on oil … has done since the Second World War. The future of oil is of acute importance to the US army because it’s the world’s biggest single user of petroleum products.
Englishmen who know all about stuff
26 April 2010
It was Thursday night and Joadja and I were flopped in front of telly watching the latest Englishman who knows all about something. This one was a keffiyah-wearing Anglican Arabist who lives in the Yemen and he was taking us all along in search of Muhammad Ibn Battuta, the 14th Century Arab traveller who made Marco Polo look like a Sunday excursionist.
“Picking up the wounded?”
“Yeah … Come on, let us shoot!”
12 April 2010
To the airborne assassins, circling a dusty Baghdad square from, perhaps, a kilometre or three away, the victims weren’t “dots”. Viewed in close-up, through the super-zoom optical gunsight of their murderous 30mm automatic cannon, their victims were clearly human, and obviously a spontaneous gathering. They were not behaving remotely like men bent on engaging heavily-armed US troops who had allegedly been fired on a couple of blocks away.
Nigerian scam letters ain’t what they used to be
30 March 2010
“I am happy to request for your assistance because I believe that you are not going to betray the trust which I am going to lay on you”, the email began. I took another sip of cider and read on.
Miss Ado (a university undergraduate, no less) wanted me to take her money and her affairs in hand. As Nigerian scams go, the cash on offer was paltry, but we’ve just been through the GFC, after all, and there was a broad hint that I’d get the money and the girl. No doubt if I’d have replied to “Linda”, she’d have sent me a photo of a lovely dewy-eyed young lass. Come in sucker.
It still warms
Climate science faces the capitalist Inquisition
17 March 2010
For asserting, with mounting evidence, Copernicus’ theory that the Earth moves around the Sun and not vice versa, Galileo Galilei was hauled before the Vatican Inquisition. Tried before 10 cardinals he was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” (seven for, three abstentions), and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
After finishing his recantation, the father of modern science is supposed to have looked down to the earth and muttered, “It still moves”.
I thought of Galileo, when I read that Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has called for climate scientists associated with the IPCC to be investigated for criminal violations.
Lies, damned lies, and Treasury costings
29 February 2010
Old Possum had them in. “Well, in my opinion”, he went on, warming to his topic, “certain folk in Treasury, who are known to be rabidly opposed to public transport users getting anything other than motorways and buses, get the wink from certain like-minded ministers in the NSW Cabinet and they just double the estimates, and, if necessary, double them again. That way, they calculate, the projects will get cancelled because they’re absurdly expensive.”
Ask not for whom the road tolled, it tolled for Sir Li
15 February 2010
Sir Li’s stevedoring company is still involved with Port Botany but his experience with the NSW Government and its Sydney toll road tunnels has not been a happy one. In fact, thanks to the RTA and the NSW Government, the poor bloke got his fingers burned to the tune of hundreds of millions. So the $64,000 question is: who introduced Sir Li to the idea that Sydney toll roads would be a cash-cow investment?
How the Australian overseas student industry rips off the developing world
6 February 2010
Let’s face it: there’s bound to be a racist element behind many of the attacks on Indian students in Australia. I mean you can see it: Here’s some resentful half-arsed kid who had a lousy upbringing and has no prospects of a brilliant career, prosperity and the rest. He hangs out with his mates and they bitch to each other about anybody identifiably different: Lebs, abos, gays, Muslims, Asians … whatever. And then they suddenly see lots of Indians turning up in the places they hang out, and even getting jobs, and they decide they’re going to bash the diligent little wog to teach him a lesson. Nothing fundamentally to do with being Indian, as such, just to do with being different: not an Aussie, not like us.
The Blade Runner option
21 January 2010
I unkinked my tail, made myself another black coffee, and went back to my investigation of the Sydney Metro Authority.
In some ways it’s been an easy job. Most of the Metro employees are convinced it scratches with its hind leg. In decent society, “I’m still playing the piano in the brothel” are words more likely to fall from the lips than an admission that you’re drawing up plans for the Metro. It’s tough when the only bloke who’ll talk to you at parties is Russell Edwards.
The shock of the old
11 December 2009
Truly, if God does exist, she moves in mysterious ways. Who would have thought that Tony Abbott, the Mad Monk, Captain Catholic, the Budgie Smuggler, the man who dreams of an Australian theocracy would – all unexpectedly – end up as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition?
That muffled far-away cheering you can hear is Vince Gair and a thousand old Democratic Labor Party reactionaries shrieking with delight from the grave. Years after the old DLP shuffled off this mortal coil, here was its spirit again abroad in the land.
A microcosm of madness
4 December 2009
Holy Mother of Marx, why would anybody want to lead the Liberal Party at the moment? This isn’t going to be a good period for any mainstream politician, but for the right it’s going to be a stinker. The world just isn’t facing the sort of rising economic tide that carried political conservatives ranging from Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, Keating, Bush and Rudd to the brief triumph of market fundamentalism.
True renaissance men in a modern setting
16 November 2009
Former U of S students of both sexes lined up in the media to point out that the university’s men’s colleges, and St Paul’s in particular, had had, for half a century, a shocking reputation for sexual violence and extravagant, boorish, misogynistic behaviour.
McGurk killing: how many hitmen were there?
22 October 2009
What are we looking at here – an assassination team of at least three men? It’s beginning to look like it. Three implies a serious conspiracy – something bigger and better-paid than the usual contract killing, of which there are an average of 12 a year in Australia and for which the average price is $12,700.
Visioning the change-embracing global city, going forwards
12 October 2009
Every now and then something really spiffy slips anonymously into the Werrong Investigations PO Box. Last week I opened one of those padded bags and out dropped a CD folded in a sheet of A4 paper on which was printed “Recorded this at caucus meeting yesterday. Thought you’d be amused. Thinking of jumping ship and running as independent.” I popped the CD in the Mac and turned up the sound. At first there was just a buzz of indecipherable grumbling and the sound of chairs scraping around. Then somebody cleared their throat a few times and tapped on a table with pen and a voice said “Bit of shush please!” The background noise died down.
The assassination of the S-W Rail Link
There is no suggestion that …
25 September 2009
Was it, I wondered, an omen, a portent of the demise of the Rees Government. I had had a long night of phone calls and googling, unravelling a web of dodgy political dealings about the South-West Growth Centre, followed by not much sleep and I was feeling kind of light-headed and biblical.
I had a client who wanted me to look into “certain aspects” of the slaying of Michael McGurk, the loan-shark and standover man who was – as they say in journalism – “linked to” sundry developers. It seemed whole shebang was in turn “linked to” land deals in places like Badgerys Creek.
The problem with the CBD Metro
11 September 2009
“... the city is the choke-point for the entire network. Sooner or later – and the way people are being forced back onto public transport by peak oil, it’s going be sooner – we’ll need a couple of additional rail tracks through the city.
“Anyway, years ago, the rail planners reserved a couple of corridors under the city, and the most important one is under Pitt Street. That’s the one they’re going to use for the CBD Metro.”
A man out of his time
The mysterious death of Antoine de Saint-Exupery
31 August 2009
Around the time you’re reading this, 65 years ago, the friends of the great French author, Antoine Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupery, were, one by one, giving him up for dead.
At 8.30am on 31 July 1944, St-Ex took off from a Corsican airfield on a dangerous photo-reconnaisance mission over occupied France. At 44, The author of The Little Prince was already an old man. Depressed, drinking heavily, and in constant pain from old injuries, he was too big for the cockpit he was shoe-horned into and officially ten years too old to be flying a P38 Lightning. Allied radar tracked his plane crossing into southern France but he never returned. Like the Little Prince, he just vanished.
Bring me the ears of Mullah Noorulla
13 August 2009
Our boys in Afghanistan killed Mullah Noorulla a few weeks back. A ‘Special Operations Task Group’ bumped him somewhere in southern Oruzgan province in what The Australian described as a “targeted assassination”. That’s as opposed to an untargeted one – whatever that is.
Of markets, dogs, and demand destruction
3 August 2009
Thanks to peak oil we’re going to need many more examples of inspired localism like the weekly markets. We’re now living in the phase of ‘demand destruction’. You won’t read much about this in the mainstream media, but if you look carefully, creeping signs of economic and social change brought on by high oil prices are everywhere.
Four years since the London bombings
What, for jihadis, is the cosmic significance of 8.50am?
10 July 2009
It’s been four years now since the 7 July London bombings and a curious thing has happened. Ever so cautiously, a major player in the UK media has voiced doubts about the official story and supported calls for a public inquiry into the atrocity.
You can fight City Hall
17 June 2009
On a recent bright sunny day with nothing particularly pressing on my desk, I felt the call of the Wolli. Joadja packed a picnic lunch and we caught the train down to Tempe Station and took a walk through the Wolli Valley along the Two Valley Trail.
Fifteen years ago, at the height of the struggle to save the valley from the M5 East motorway, the valley’s defenders produced Roads of Doom, a nifty little comic book about my investigation of the RTA and the freeway lobby. It’s now regarded as a cult classic of conservation movement literature.
Billions are the new millions
28 May 2009
The government has been living out a bizarre fantasy and it’s the faux precision that gives the game away. Nathan reckoned the City Metro would cost $5.3 billion and the Western Metro $8.1 billion. They haven’t yet decided on a route for the Western Metro and they haven’t done any detailed design work. They haven’t even settled on how many stations there will be, or where, but they do have a price – $8.1 billion. How do they know that? Where does that point one come from? Why not, “Buggered if we know. Anywhere between four and twelve billion we guess”? At least that would be honest.
The strange case of the phantom Phantom
A shadow falls on DNA evidence
20 April 2009
Let me tell you a disturbing story. Since the 2007 murder of a young German policewoman, Michèle Kiesewetter, cops all over Europe have been hunting a brutal and mysterious female serial killer ... And then, the whole case fell apart.
When the pie starts shrinking
29 March 09
Let’s face it squarely: the whole notion of the organising genius of the “invisible hand of the market” has taken a horrible beating. People are being laid off everywhere, businesses are closing down, imported cars are lying around unsold, empty shipping containers are piling up at the wharves. A weird kind of fatalism is settling over society. Things have gone so horribly wrong that long-term enthusiasts for neo-liberal free markets – people like Thomas Friedman – the batty bard of globalism – and our own Kevin Rudd are now talking like they were doughty critics of market fundamentalism all along.
Old money, new money
1 March 2009
"Before 1971 the nexus between the pile of gold bars in the treasury and the amount of paper in circulation acted as a psychological and policy barrier to the creation of endless floods of paper currency – and debt, which in invisible paper. After 1971, all barriers were down. With no independent measure of value to weigh paper against, there was no limit to the amount of new paper and debt you could create.
“And then along comes electronic accounting and transfer. Money has gone from being a physical thing, a commodity, to a paper representation of that commodity, to an electronic signal representing the paper representation. It’s gone from being a material thing, to a concept.”
Burned at the stake
How the Inquisition invented enemies where there were none
21 January 2009
So what does a marsupial private eye read over the silly season? Naturally, I’m drawn to tales of crime, punishment and intrigue and if you throw in the moral and economic decline of a civilization, you’ve got me in as surely as if you’d offered me a cold cider.
Toby Green’s Inquisition – The Reign of Fear (published last year in paperback by Pan) is dedicated to “all those who suffered at the hands of the Inquisitions of Portugal and Spain”.
This book is, by analogy, a warning against the hysteria and irrationality of the current War on Terror.
Looking backwards, progressing forwards
14 January 2009
A prolonged recession, possibly a full-blown depression, is upon us. Funds for mega projects are drying up. To make matters worse, oil supplies are in inexorable decline. What we need, in the new environment, is a modest, reliable, long-term program of investment in public transport infrastructure. The most important element here is light rail because it’s terrific value – high capacity, low cost.
An investment of, say, $400m a year is going to get us somewhere between 20 and 40 kilometres of light rail every year (depending on where you put it), plus the vehicles to operate it. That’s something the state can afford and, year, by year, the kilometres are really going to add up.
Nathan Rees and the Tunnels of Doom
21 November 2008
What more can you say about this mob? All the nouns and adjectives have been used up. Sydney’s public transport is bursting at the seams, but so many vital rail projects have been announced and re-announced – definitely, finally, construction-starts-tomorrow announced, and then quietly cancelled, that the punters have lost count.
A tale of two projects
How Mick Costa cost Sydney 10 lost years
1 November 2008
Construction of Parra-Chat had already started when Mick Costa was elevated to the Ministry of Transport Services. In August 2003 he “deferred” the Parramatta to Epping section - at a stroke, the vital role of Parra-Chat as a “relief line” for the overcrowded Western line disappeared, crippling the beneficial effect of the project.
the questions that wont go away