Nick's Whispers from the mean streets appear in the fortnightly Sydney City Hub

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.

Danse macabre
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.

Humanising Hitler
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
20 December
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
t 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.

WikiLeaks fallout
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.

Nathan’s Folly
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.

Metro madness
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.

9/11: the questions that won’t go away

20 September 2008
The other night on the ABC, I watched the BBC’s second effort on the mysteries of 9/11 and I couldn’t help noticing the Beeb was rather more respectful towards the 9/11 truth movement than it was in its last disastrous foray into the subject. Their previous sneering effort came to grief because they showed live footage of the Beeb’s on-the-spot reporter burbling news just-to-hand that World Trade Centre 7 – the building that wasn’t hit by any aircraft – had collapsed. Alas, WTC7 could clearly be seen behind her and it was to be a further 23 minutes before it fell. The critics had a field day.
Seven years after 9/11 the questions just will not go away
Is DNA really the gold standard of forensic evidence?
16 August 2008
When the deal finally went down, the guilty verdict in the trial of Bradley John Murdoch for the July 2001 murder of Peter Falconio was founded on just one bit of evidence, and that was a DNA match.
But is DNA really as good as it’s been cracked up to be? Research in the US has now thrown doubt on its utter reliability.

What on earth are we doing in Afghanistan?
4 July 2008
Meanwhile, in the real Afghanistan, a huge, ruined, landlocked, mountainous, desertified, deforested disaster zone north of Pakistan things were sliding out of control. The vast countryside was falling under control of the Taliban, leaving a motley foreign garrison and a puppet government isolated in Kabul. One could almost hear the Australian media collectively thinking: “Is this really the ‘good war’ we have made it out to be?”

Where do we get these people?
26 June 2008
The current generation of mainstream Australian politicians have only the barest shadow of a race-memory of crisis. The idea of the system that’s ticked over all their lives suddenly collapsing into shortages, rationing and social chaos, is alien to their thinking.

The onward march of petrol poverty
12 May 2008
On the wall there were two laminated maps of Sydney, compiled by UTS researcher Peter Rickwood. The first showed a vast outer ring of suburbs coloured orange, where , at $1.50 a litre, the average household was shelling out more than 6 per cent of their income on petrol. This zone was labelled “Petrol Poverty Belt” in a bold hand, with a thick black marker. Scary, I thought, the $1.50 line passed a few days ago and petrol’s now heading for $1.60.

Light rail to Dulwich Hill
Simple, cheap, efficient, so Iemma's probably against it

8 May 2008
“Look, there’s one way of getting a lot more public transport capacity, at least in the inner west, and that’s by extending the Metro Light Rail from where it terminates at Lilyfield all the way to Dulwich Hill. It’d be as cheap as chips.” He peered triumphantly through his scratched old bifocals. I knew he was warming to one of his favourite topics.

The man in the glass bowl
John Howard should be tried for war crimes

10 March 08
I thought of Kissinger’s shrinking horizons when I heard John Winston Howard had turned up in Washington where he’d received the 2008 Irving Kristol award from the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.
Not a single member of the Bush administration came along to hear Howard defend his decision to stand by Dubya in the invasion of Iraq. He ran Australia for 11 years on behalf of the neocons and all he got was a glass salad bowl

Can Mick Costa pull off the big one?
Privatisation as penis art
13 February 2008
It was mid afternoon when Joadja and I got back to the Brushtail Cafe after the rally and march against the Iemma Government’s crazy-mad plan to duplicate the Iron Cove Bridge and squeeze extra lanes into Victoria Road through Drummoyne.
EcoTransit’s Gavin Gatenby spoke at the rally, pointing out that the world reached the maximum possible level of oil production in late 2006. Production is already falling, he said, and petrol will probably hit $2 a litre within twelve months, but this loony government have their hearts set on a vast underground road system linking the Eastern Distributor with the M4 and Port Botany, complete with subterranean interchange

After 75 years, justice for Marinus
14 January 2008
In 1967 a West German court reduced Marinus van de Lubbe’s 1933 sentence for arson and treason to a prison term of eight years. In 1980 the same court lifted the sentence entirely, but the German federal court reversed this decision. The next year another court overturned the original conviction on the grounds that van der Lubbe was insane.
None of which mattered much to Marinus van der Lubbe himself because he was, in fact, very dead, having been guillotined in 1934. They do things differently in Germany.

Shooting the village explainers
13 December 2007
“You know when I was sure Howard was going to lose? It was when Sheehan slipped away from Fort Howard at the end of October. I always knew that Miranda Devine and Gerard Henderson, dog-loyal Howard soldiers, would fall at their posts, but not Sheehan – he snuffed defeat, slipped over the wall and vanished into the scrub in search of a new leader. Now he’s back in the Sydney Morning Herald putting down Bob Brown and the Greens and sucking up to the new government.”

Don’t mention the oil
Howard and Rudd avoid the burning issue of our time

10 November 2007
Oil has bumped $US100 a barrel. Right. That’s $US40 more than it was at the beginning of the year. Supplies of crude are getting tighter and tighter and competition for them more intense. If the situation from Pakistan to Palestine continues to deteriorate it’ll quickly go to $120 a barrel. If Bush tries to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age it could go anywhere.
Pretty soon, petrol will cost as much in Sydney as it did in the middle of the Nullabor a couple of years ago, but you won’t hear much debate about that grim fact from Liberal or Labor.

Letting slip the drugs of war
Is the CIA helping itself to the Afghan heroin harvest?

22 October 2007
Since the fall of the Taliban regime, which had seriously honoured an agreement to close down the trade, heroin production in Afghanistan has surged. In 2006 there was a 50 per cent increase in the poppy harvest and it created a new record for world production, my contact in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime told me. Afghanistan now accounts for 92 per cent of the world’s illicit production. She expected it would take another leap upwards this year.
So where is the stuff ending up? So far, not in Australia, but that’s only a matter of time. Once again, the streets of Western Europe and Russia are awash with the stuff and that fact got me thinking about the CIA.

Heroic Howard stabbed in the back
A new myth is born

1 October 2007
“Yeah, he’s in trouble all right”, Old Possum remarked, taking another sip from his cider. “But just when it’s needed, a new social myth is being born. You see, if all goes wrong, it’s important that Howard is preserved in the conservative pantheon as a hero who never lost a battle … except when he was betrayed by people on his own side.”

Next assignment: the invasion of Indonesia
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
23 August 2007
Don’t imagine for a second that the election of a Democrat to the US presidency would signal a less bellicose America – advisers to presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say the difference would just be a matter of “style” and they’re spinning the need for more Australian “engagement” in American adventures abroad.
The Haneef case
How the lie got halfway round the world before the truth got its boots on

23 July 2007
In its general outline, the “official story” has held sway among our politicians and the mainstream media for several years now: we’re engaged in an open-ended struggle called “The Clash of Civilizations”: Muslims (monolithic, evil, fanatical, backward, growing relentlessly in numbers and influence) versus normal Western folk (nice, democratic, overly-trusting). A shadowy Muslim organization called al-Qaeda spreads its organizational tentacles throughout the world, ordering bombings . A contradictory alternative scenario, peddled by the same official sources, holds that it doesn’t. According to this even more scary theory, a controlling organization isn’t necessary because anytime any two or three Muslims get together they spontaneously form a cell devoted to jihad. Whatever, none of this has anything to do with oil.
Broad acceptance of this narrative leads the mainstream media to pass on, as good coin, whatever their “anonymous sources” in the secret police tell them.

The victory of spin
It all depends on how you frame the thing

22 June 2007
The efficacy of the Muslim terrorist scare campaign has worn off since the last election so the Great Illusionist needed a fresh new issue to appeal to the redneck prejudices of the idiot ‘aspirationals’ he depends on in the critical marginal seats – the people now doing it tough under Work Choices and interest rate rises. Taking the big stick of ‘tough love’ and martial law to the blacks has obvious appeal here. Howard can be seen to be taking a strong stand about a festering problem; he can bamboozle the black leaders by saying they’ve asked him to do something for years and now he’s doing it; and he can lay blame at the doorstep of the Labor state governments.

The Great Illusionist
30 May 2007
Howard conned his erstwhile supporters, got into power, and then with a flash and a bang, he pulled a hapless Arab Muslim out of his hat and screamed triumphantly: “I’ve gottim, I’ve gottim”. The silly buggers loved it. They never noticed the deft switch. The East Asian migrants kept coming, and a tiny harmless minority, something like 1.5 per cent of the population, became the focus of redneck fear and ignorance.

19 April 2007
The point is that technology changes things: before the rapid-fire firearm, it really was hard for a lone nut to massacre lots of people; with modern firepower, it’s quick and easy. In the 18 years before the reform of Australia’s gun laws in the wake of the April 1996 Port Arthur Massacre (35 dead, 19 wounded) there were 112 Australians killed and 52 wounded in 13 mass shooting incidents. There have been no mass shootings in the decade since semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were effectively illegalised and that is what the reforms were designed to achieve.

Occupation turf war sheds new light on the Nick Berg case

US contractors ‘tortured’ for talking to the FBI

11 April 2007
The case of Donald Vance, an American citizen secretly imprisoned by the US military in Iraq after making accusations against an Iraqi-owned security company for which he worked, has revealing parallels with the 2004 disappearance of Nick Berg, a US contractor whose murder is officially attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

27 March 2007
I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.
Despite being massively outgunned by the Italians, the Abyssinians fought heroically. Spears and old rifles were pitted against tanks, artillery and modern bombers dropping poison gas and high explosives. Civilians were massacred and villages laid waste.
Around the world, the public were outraged, but the anger bothered Mussolini not at all.

Petrol at $1.20 a litre? Say goodbye to all that
27 February 2007
It was raining when I drove through Newtown late on Sunday afternoon. King Street was teeming with people from the Soundwaves concert in Sydney Park and the cafes and pubs were full of laughter. Soon the street lights would come on and the restaurants would start filling up and the neon signs would lend a tawdry glamour to the old town.
It will look like this on the streets of Tehran just before the American blitz starts. They say Iran is a beautiful place, but bright lights will probably not burn there for many years, and the country, like Iraq before it, will be poisoned by radiation from DU munitions, if not actual nuclear bombs, for thousands of years to come.

To hell with summer soldiers and sunshine patriots
30 January 2007
I was sunning myself with a cider outside the Brushtail Café on Australia Day when a bunch of drunken Anglo yobs spilled out of the pub on the other side of Sydney Road. For a while they waved a big Australian flag at the traffic chanting “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” They were mostly young men but I seemed to recognise Peter Debnam and Morris Iemma among their number. Piers Ackerman, Alan Jones, Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan, Janet Albrechtsen and a bunch of other shock-jocks, right-wing columnists and howardista spin doctors lurked in the pub doorway, urging them on.

An ugly start to the New American Century
1 January 2007
“I can’t see this Iraq Study Group’s report leading to any change”, I said. “What they’re recommending is really no different to current US policy: train a pro-US Iraqi army, and then gradually withdraw, but that’s a nonsense. Under the tutelage of Maliki’s government, that army will be overwhelmingly Shiite and pro-Iranian. Unless the Sunni and Baathist resistance prevails, all the invasion will have achieved – apart from generalised social misery in Iraq – is Iranian hegemony over the Gulf.”
All hat, no cattle
Why John Howard is the greatest little faker in Western politics

19 November 2006
“Do the maths yourself. America has a population just shy of 300 million and it’s got about 140,000 ground troops in Iraq, plus airforce people and several thousand mercenaries. An equivalent per capita commitment by Australia – our population is a tad over 20 million – would be at least 10,000, but we’ve only sent 500 soldiers to the war.
Never believe your own shtick

A lesson from the rise and fall of Australian “conservation icons”
1 November 2006

Young Bindi Irwin is all over the news these days and it looks like a cruel thing to this possum. I mean, she’s just a little kid. She still has a decade of school in front of her. And the angst of teenhood. And maybe she’ll find, as she gets older, that wildlife icon just ain’t her. Then what? Irwin built a business around personal celebrity. The adulation surrounding Bindi strikes this possum as a desperate attempt to find a commercial substitute.

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An elegant resolution to the law-and-order auction
1 October 2006
We’re six months out from the next NSW state election and already there’s frenzied bidding in the law-and-order auction. Peter what’s-his-name, the Liberal leader, is bidding 200 Men-of-Middle-Eastern-Appearance (MoMEA) rounded up instantly on any old charge and bugger the question of guilt, or evidence. The Labor incumbents will top this for sure. I can’t see Morris Iemma throwing in less than 400 MoMEA in orange jumpsuits and leg irons.
Mother of Suckers
The mainstream media swallow the TATP myth

21 August 2006
In which Alex the chemist explains why the idea that you can slip into the airliner toilet and mix two harmless chemicals to make a powerful explosive is preposterous nonsense.

24 July 2006
“By a strange coincidence, today is the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the King David hotel in Jerusalem”, Old Possum remarked, as we waited at Town Hall Square for the march to kick off. “While their air force is unleashing hell in Lebanon, Israelis are dancing on the graves of 92 people killed by the Irgun terrorist organization on 22 July 1946”.
But is it a threesome?
3 July 2006
idja pick up Miranda Devine’s little slip in her Sydney Morning Herald column the other day?” Joadja asked, when she brought up another box of tissues and a four litre bottle of apple juice and slipped between the sheets to comfort me. “She wrote that Pru Goward and her husband, whathisname … John Barnett … had written an ‘autobiography’ of John Howard.”
Made in Australia
Countdown to East Timor’s subcontract coup d’etat

29 May 2006
The one thing East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri didn’t want was for his small dirt-poor nation to be caught in the vise-like grip of the World Bank and its so-called “economic reforms”. Consequently, Alkatiri declined to accept their offers of loans. That was a fundamentally smart strategic decision, but it probably doomed his leadership.
It’s the oil, stupid
24 May 2006
“The energy panic is here. The inevitable crisis that a handful of us have warned of for over a decade is upon us. Oil’s hit US$75 a barrel, driven on by Bush’s mad plan to nuke Iran. Welcome to the rest of our lives.” Old Possum said, taking another sip from his cider.
Sliding towards the vortex
27 March 2006
Every day now, the Bush regime ratchets up the rhetoric against Iran. Bush’s people are constantly threatening a military solution to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Many people assume, or hope, that the US is just posturing, but bluffing is a dangerous game. If your bluff is called, what do you do then?
Miranda Devine and the strange case of the drug raid that never was

28 February 2006
So Miranda Devine's “journalism” had come to this: it’s okay not to let the actual facts stand in the way of a good story if it highlights what you think is really going on and advances your political message. That spin came through loud and clear from her piqued defence of police “whistleblower” Tim Priest, who had belatedly been exposed by Herald journalists as, well, a fantasist.
Matrimonial on the Indian Pacific
1 February 2006
Travelling to Perth on the Indian Pacific, our hero encounters Bob Ellis. What is it about paunchy, depressive, balding, rheumy-eyed writers that women find so fatally attractive?

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Our investigation of the Nick Berg case
WARNING: some articles contain disturbing images

The Nicholas Berg execution:
A working hypothesis and a resolution for the orange jumpsuit mystery

23 May 2004
Why was Nick Berg wearing a US prison "jumpsuit" when he was apparently executed on video by what are claimed to be al-Qaeda-linked terrorists? Something fishy there, but there's an elegant explanation. This was my first work on the case, later elaborated by …

New evidence and observations on the Berg case
18 July 2004
A close comparison of frames from the Berg video and pictures from Abu Ghraib prison reveals more evidence that the execution video was recorded in the notorious prison complex. Also, a refinement on the issue of the orange jumpsuit, which was actually a two-piece US prison uniform. And for an "off camera" view of a videotaped interrogation like the one seen in the opening 13 seconds of the Berg execution video, see the postscript to this piece. WARNING: disturbing images.

Nick Berg: the missing month
1 June 2004
A lot of people would like to know what happened to Nicholas Berg after he walked out of Baghdad’s Al-Fanar Hotel on 10 April. They say the 26 year-old American contractor was looking for a taxi when he walked off down the street and into history.

Nagging questions about Nicholas Berg's last days:
An open letter to Beth A. Payne, US Consul, Baghdad, Iraq

9 June 2004
Millions want to know the truth about the last days of the young American contractor murdered in Iraq. Was he seized a second time by US forces? The US Consul in Baghdad should tell us all she knows.

Our man in Kabul:
Torturing Afghanis with Fox News' celebrity mercenary

1 August 2004
The fascinating case of Jonathan Keith Idema, a mercenary headhunter and one of Donald Rumsfeld's OA boys until he fell foul of the US State Department and the Afghan regime.

Occupation turf war sheds new light on the Nick Berg case
US contractors ‘tortured’ for talking to the FBI

11 April 2007
The case of Donald Vance, an American citizen secretly imprisoned by the US military in Iraq after making accusations against an Iraqi-owned security company for which he worked, has revealing parallels with the 2004 disappearance of Nick Berg, a US contractor whose murder is officially attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.


A timely history of the fight for civil liberties in NSW
The Liberating of Lady Chatterley and Other True Stories:
A History of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties

By Dorothy Campbell and Scott Campbell

5 June 2008

This is a book about a problem that is ever with us.
The balance between social order and the right of the individual to freedom of expression, opinion, movement, and protection from arbitrary official conduct tips all to easily in favour of the state – and the most bullying elements within it – unless constant vigilance is maintained by people who care.

"New" Pearl Harbour photos are a cheap email propaganda fraud

By Gavin Gatenby
7 July 2007 1245 AM

A couple of hours ago I received, by email, a Powerpoint file purporting to reveal newly-discovered photos of the aftermath of the December 1941 Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbour.
The photos are incredibly dramatic but they certainly didn't, as claimed, come out of a Box Brownie that's suddenly turned up, after 66 years, in a locker somewhere. These "new" Pearl Harbour photos are genuine and probably all are from publicly-accessible archives. Why are they suddenly circulating now – proliferating everywhere – with this laughable story about having just been discovered? READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

In the time of Sakura
The piano music of Mike Nock

By Phil Sandford
3 May 2007

In the discussion session Nock described himself as a composer driven by emotion. But he added that the intellectual task of fully notating his music had been a humbling experience which made him appreciate even more the contribution made by the great classical composers.
‘In the time of Sakura’ shows that Nock has seamlessly integrated his many musical influences and has achieved a powerful integration of emotion and intellect. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

An email to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly

From: James B <>
Subject: The view from the South
Date: 30 April 2007 11:48:39 PM
To: Bill O'Reilly <>
CC: 18 others
Hi Bill, the news filtering through to the Land of Oz concerning your activities continues to be less than inspiring. We hear that the delightful Rosie O'Donnell was attacked left right and center for two weeks solid by "such corporate media establishment hacks as Bill O'Reily, Joe Scarborough and Danny Bonaduce who seriously called for her to be executed". Pharr out. Things certainly seem to be degenerating fast in the Land of the Phreeee. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

Ten days out from the NSW elections
Politicians in denial on global warming

By Matt Mushalik
15 March 2007

On Monday evening’s 7.30 Report, climatologist James Hansen from NASA, a respected scientist, gave some clear answers to Kerry O’Brien: “ … If we get warming of two or three degrees Celsius, then I would expect that both West Antarctica and parts of Greenland would end up in the ocean, and the last time we had an ice sheet disintegrate, sea level went up at a rate of 5 metres in a century, or one metre every 20 years. That is a real disaster, and that's what we have to avoid …”

Chain up Cheney! Bring Hicks home!
Sydney anti-war marchers defy police ban and reclaim the streets

A Possum News Network Exclusive
Words and pictures by Gavin Gatenby
22 February 2007
This evening 1500 anti-war demonstrators overcame a strong police presence and, after a half-hour confrontation with the NSW riot squad and mounted police marched to the US Consulate to protest against US Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to Australia and the five-year imprisonment of David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay. SEE THE PICTURES >>>

In the thrall of the monster drug barons
21 February 2007

Isn't it good to see that the best politicians money can buy are so consistent in their attitudes to public health and moral fibre. On one hand they enjoy a felch-fest with the drug dealers and poker machine pushers of the Australian Hotel Association (SMH 13/02/07), while on the other they sool the sniffer dogs onto the punters going to the Big Day Out, and just about everything else, in case they might have a reefer or eccy pill in their pocket. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

How to photograph street marches

By Gavin Gatenby, Possum News Network
29 August 2006

Over recent months there have been large and feisty marches against the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and most recently against Zionist aggression in Gaza and Lebanon, but the visual record on the web was typically of poor quality, if it existed at all. Thousands marched – sometimes hundreds of thousands – but apart from a few thousand passers-by and, if we’re very lucky, viewers watching a few seconds of TV coverage, nobody much saw what happened.
I just wish more people would try their hand at this simple and inexpensive form of journalism. To help those who want to try, I've put together a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.

How to organise a major terrorist scare
The Big Dummy’s guide to security booga-booga

By Gavin Gatenby, Possum News Network
15 August 2006

How easy is it to organise a major terrorist scare like the one that’s currently gridlocking the world’s airports? Dead easy. If you follow a few simple points you can panic the populace and stampede the media with virtually no risk of getting caught. All it takes is a little confidence. Here’s a simple “how-to” for aspiring top-level spooks ... READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

Sydney rally and march, Saturday 12 August 2006
Stop the Bombing!
No Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Palestine!

A Possum News Network Exclusive
Words and pictures by Gavin Gatenby
This was the third weekend in a row that big demonstrations have been held in Sydney against Zionist aggression. I'd say this march numbered 10,000. It stretch for two blocks and across all four lanes of George Street before turning up King Street to Elizabeth Street and then to Hyde Park. Like the other marches it was characterised by an extraordinary diversity of people and organisations both religious and secular. SEE THE PICTURES >>>

Coast of Terror
Mel Gibson, anti-Semitism, Zionism and Mee

By Gavin Gatenby
Possum News Network
1 August 2006

When the Sydney Morning Herald dropped on the bed on Monday morning, Mel Gibson was spread across the top of the front page. The actor and ultra-conservative Catholic some Australians like to call “Our Mel” had levelled a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse at a Malibu traffic cop who'd pulled him over for drunk-driving. The lead story immediately below covered the latest outrages committed by the Zionist armed forces in Lebanon. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

Stop the Israeli attack on Lebanon & Gaza!
Freedom & justice for Palestine!

A Possum News Network Exclusive
22 July 2006
Words and pictures by Gavin Gatenby
I knew this was going to be a big demonstration when I boarded a city-bound train at Turrella station, 10 kilometres from the city. Sydney trains hold well over 2000 travellers and they aren't normally full on Saturday mornings. This one was packed with people heading for the demonstration. It was all I could do to squeeze into the foyer. The crowd was singing Lebanese and Arab resistance songs and at one stage, the Palestinian anthem. SEE THE PICTURES >>>

Rally for Palestine

A Possum News Network Exclusive
02 July 2006

An emergency rally was called at short notice to protest against the Israeli assault on Gaza and the West Bank. Australian Palestinians and supporters assembled in Wiley Park in Sydney's inner south-west and marched down Canterbury Road then Haldon Street Lakemba to a rally. SEE THE PICTURES >>>

Breaking: Brits, Japs and Aussies to cut and run from Iraq?
By Gavin Gatenby
Possum News Network
16 June 2006

Today, the Japanese agency Kyodo News reported that “British, Australian and Japanese troops will transfer security responsibilities in southern Iraq to Iraqi authorities next week, and withdraw from the area soon afterward”.
Citing anonymous Coalition sources the agency report indicated that, following a meeting of the three countries in London last week, a rapid pullout would be announced early next week. Significantly, it appears that the US government was not consulted on the decision.

Tony Blair’s Washington visit and the curious case of a disappearing BBC story
By Gavin Gatenby
Possum News Network
27 May 2006

On Friday 26 May, just hours after Tony Blair and George Bush began talks in Washington on the “progress” of their occupation of Iraq, a curious article appeared on the BBC’s website. Headlined “Iran FM begins first Baghdad trip”, it was posted at 0617 GMT. Penned by one Pam O'Toole, it painted a faux-objective, strangely upbeat, picture of the Iranian foreign minister’s impending visit to Iraq. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

Sorry George, can’t help with the Iran business
Behind John Howard’s Timor provocation

By Gavin Gatenby
Possum News Network
15 May 2006

On Friday 12 May, shortly before flying off to see George Bush, Australian Prime minister John Howard did two remarkable things. Firstly, he ruled out Australian involvement in any military action in Iran. “I’m not in favour of other than trying to achieve a diplomatic solution”, he told the media. Then he announced an unexpected and highly provocative military build-up for a possible new occupation of East Timor.

In the house of the rising scum

By The Blue Collar Bohemian
1 May 2006

On Friday nights on SBS TV, there’s usually a program on a topic of "adult interest". At times it’s covered guys obsessed with women so fat that sex with them is physically impossible, women with big breasts they didn't want and men with small dicks they didn't like, among other related topics. A program about a STD clinic in London featured amongst others a South African chap named Gary who enjoyed anonymous sex in hotel and bar toilets with other chaps, and as a result contracted oral gonorrhea. We got to see the nurse at the clinic examine Gary with a throat swab that was put down his neck a good eight inches, while Gary exhibited no sign of a gag reflex at all.
With the months to the next NSW state election drifting by I was reminded of Gary by a recent report in the Herald titled "Dinner with Iemma comes at a hefty price".

Spooky stuff
By invitation, the FBI and the NYPD set up shop in Sydney

By Lawrence Gibbons
1 May 2006

Late last year, with little fanfare and even less public scrutiny, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a local office here in Sydney. Located in the US consulate way up high in the MLC in Martin Place, an FBI agent will provide back up assistance and training to Australia’s Federal and State police. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

On lives squandered in war for the greed and powerlust of the worthless few

By The Blue Collar Bohemian
24 April 2006
Anzac Day - the One Day of the Year, the day that "blooded" us as a "nation". Lest We Forget. As someone who, like many, has been touched, through the suffering of close relatives, by the scourge of war, I have mixed feelings about this day of national remembrance. I need to ask what exactly it is we remember, and why. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

The rise and fall of General Motors

By The Blue Collar Bohemian
19 April 2006

With the corporate giant seemingly on its knees we may be seeing the demise of the company that set the stage for the transport related social, environmental and energy problems we have today.

Rumours of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s survival were greatly exaggerated
So who really killed Nick Berg?

By Gavin Gatenby
Possum News Network
11 April 2006

For those of us who feel a strange compulsion to analyse the seedy world of US black operations, and who had always doubted the recent existence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, vindication probably doesn’t come any closer than this. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

Troops home now!
Peace & justice for the Iraqi people!
Sydney march and rally Saturday 18 March 2006
Part of the global weekend of action on the third anniversary of the invasion

Around 2000 people marched from Belmore Park, opposite Central railway station, up Elizabeth Street to Liverpool Street then down George Street through the cinema precinct and back to Belmore Park. SEE THE PICTURES >>>

Liberal powerbroker was a harbinger of the new fascism
Lyenko Urbanchich 1923–2006

By The Blue Collar Bohemian
2 March 2006
Lyenko Urbanchich, who has died aged 83, was a symbol of everything that conservative politics stands for. A self proclaimed “Slovenian Patriot”, Urbanchich came to Australia after WWII to escape accountability for his actions in support of Nazi Germany during that war. He then found a comfortable place in the bosom of the Liberal Party, ever happy to embrace, as “good anti-communists”, the slime oozing out from the collapse of the fascist Axis. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

The Askariya Mosque job and the coming war on Iran

1 March 2006

So who really did have a motive for the very professional demolition job on Samarra’s Golden Dome Mosque?
Many analysts have pointed to the general advantages that flow to the imperialist occupation from fostering sectarian divisions – the traditional divide-and-rule strategy – but I think we can be a lot more specific. I believe we can reliably point to the United States as the real culprit and see a clear motive in the geo-strategic nightmare created by Washington’s determination to wage war on Iran.

The struggle in Swaziland
By The Blue Collar Bohemian
27 February 2006
Swaziland is a "faraway country of which we know little", as Neville Chamberlain might have said. So why does it matter?
The western corporate media is constantly full of the abominable behaviour of Robert Mugabe, a revolutionary who defeated a white racist government. However, not far from Zimbabwe there’s small landlocked country, with South Africa on three sides and Mozambique on the other that very seldom rates a mention. This is the Kingdom of Swaziland, ruled by the Dlamini family dynasty since 1750

Behind every great fortune is a great theft
By the Blue Collar Bohemian
14 February 2006

As the new year grinds on its way Your Correspondent has been reflecting on recent events, and has come to some pretty depressing conclusions about the immediate future, given the Brave New World we are being blessed with, courtesy of our Chosen Oppressors.

The loonies take over the asylum
Murdoch hack counsels an “unconscionable” war on Iran

5 February 2006

Anyone who doubts the determination of key elements of the US-led imperialist bloc to wage a ‘preemptive’ war against Iran should read the recent opinion piece by Gerard Baker from The Times (it was reproduced in The Weekend Australian 28-29 Jan 2006). Not much appears in The Times by accident, and certainly not a piece of such resounding bellicosit.

The Uzbekistan torture documents
A PNN public service
1 January 2006

The British Government has been quick to deny that it practices, or tolerates the practice of, torture. So it is perhaps not suprising that it is determined that you should not see the following documents... READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>

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