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

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.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Brushtail Graphics

The best of all possible crashes

6 April 2000

"How much longer can the stock market bubble last?" I asked. "Look at this ... here's Ross Gittins in Saturday's Herald explaining what makes a bubble and how it bursts. The end is surely near. When Ross starts explaining that something's perfectly understandable, it's about to happen."

I was sitting around in the Brushtail Café with Joadja and Old Possum drinking and reading the papers. The afternoon had started as a bit of a party to celebrate my big cheque from Kristina Moran's lawyers, but somehow the morose weather got the better of us and we ended up moping around reading the papers.

It was raining in a desultory sort of way and big droplets of water clung to the café window like crystal lenses. I peered through one from up close. The world outside looked back, upside down and distorted. A tiny black spider was struggled up the outside of the window, dodging between the droplets.

"Yeah, there's no doubt about Ross, he's the Dr Pangloss of economics writers. Everything's always for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and if it isn't, it's at least explainable ... which somehow makes it for the best", Joadja remarked.

"And he's noticed that Wall Street is suffering from a split personality", said Old. He took another sip of cider before going on. "The Dow-Jones index only rose 18 per cent in the last year but the Nasdaq is up 94 per cent. The thing is, Gittins makes it seem as if the market as a whole is booming – after all, 18 per cent isn't bad! – but that's not the real story. The real story is that the majority of Wall Street stocks have been in the dumps for months. Their prices are way, way down – it's only a handful of blue chips that are pulling the average up and making it look like there's a boom. What Gittins hasn't said is that that's what characterised Wall Street in the months leading up to the 1929 crash.

"And then there's Alan Greenspan's interest rate rises. The Fed tried the same tactic in '29 and it made no difference then, the speculators just shrugged it off and went on borrowing more money to plunge on the market. What did they care? They all thought they were going to double their money overnight and they rushed on to disaster.

"As the market rocketed up in '28 and '29, hundreds of thousands of suckers entered it. This day-trading thing is nothing new. It's not something brought on by the new internet technology, it's a social phenomena, not a technological one, and it's a characteristic of the last months of market bubbles. The equivalent in 1929 was the thousands of little brokerage offices that opened across America to service the swelling numbers of little punters who wanted to play at getting rich. They even had them on the big ocean liners. These places were fitted out with stock tickers, which printed the latest prices on a stream of paper tape. Lots of people even had stock tickers in their homes."

"The parallels are everywhere", I said. "In '29 there was the same hype about new technologies and the same relentless spin-doctoring. Good old analog radio was the big thing then. Everybody was buying radios; radio stations were starting everywhere. As they say about the internet: it was going to change the entire way people lived, worked, and did business. Capitalists were floating companies to make radios, market radios, broadcast to radios, advertise on radios, insure radios, fit radios in cars ... not one in a hundred survived the crash".

A sudden flurry of rain gusted down Werrong Lane. The big drops of rain hanging on the window quivered and collapsed, surging down the pane in a thousand thousand tiny rivulets. I scanned the window for the tiny spider, but he'd been swept away in the deluge.