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 Distributor tolls for thee

6 January 2000

"You know how the Daily Telegraph was running that stuff about the Eastern Distributor last week: the Great Motorists' Revolt -- people jacking up over paying the toll?" Joadja asked when I went down to the Brushtail Café for lunch.

"They're calling it the Great U-Turn down at Holt Street, I'm told. One day they do this warm touchy-feely advertorial lift-out by Kelvin Blissbomb, or Blissett, or whatever, praising the thing, and a couple of days later the editorial petrolheads are screaming for Crown Street to be reopened", I replied, eyeing off the grilled eggplant with sun-dried tomato on pide bread.

"That's right. Well, I've been re-reading that confidential RTA report on traffic diversion -- the one they kept out of the environmental impact statement. It makes vvverrry interesting reading now".

"Remind me."

"Well in 1994, when the RTA started getting serious about the Eastern Distributor, they decided to find out how motorists would respond to tolls. They hired Professor David Hensher of Sydney University to do some research. He surveyed motorists who stopped at the traffic lights at Taylor Square, and asked them how much they were willing to pay if they saved various amounts of time. He asked them about three levels of toll: 50 cents, $1 and $1.50."

"Only a dollar fifty? But the toll now is $3!" I said, torn between the eggplant thing and the Waldorf salad.

"Yeah, but at that time nobody in their wildest dreams had considered that the toll for a motorway as short as this could be anything like $3. Anyway, what Hensher found was that there would be very serious resistance to a toll as high as $1.50. In fact 65 per cent of private commuters -- that's people going to work and back -- said they wouldn't pay a $1.50 if they saved 10 minutes and 85 per cent would divert if they only saved five minutes."

"Interesting! At the moment, about half of all motorists are avoiding the road."

"Yeah, maybe Hensher didn't get it entirely right, nobody ever does with that sort of survey, but he was in the right ballpark. He did warn them there would be serious resistance."

"So what did they do with the research?" I asked. "You'd have to suppose they gave it to the companies who tendered for the project. I mean, it would be pretty bad if they didn't. And if they gave it to the tenderers, well, they knew what they were getting into, didn't they?"

"But that was when the toll was going to be $1.50 maximum! Things started to slide after that and the project got bigger and bigger and more and more expensive and the toll got to be $3. Wouldn't you think that somebody in the RTA would have spoken up. I mean, it had all got out of hand they were facing disaster lots of superannuation funds were going to invest in this thing. A sure-fire winner. Infrastructure. Everyone was being told it was a real cash cow. Do you think anybody ever warned the Minister for Roads about this, or the Premier?"

"Jesus I dunno, good question. The political implications are huge", I said.

"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you the big news: your little mate Rodney Johnstone -- the bloke who went to gaol over the Burwood Council affair -- he's popped up again".

"You're joking!"

"No. I saw him on TV. He's the campaign manager for some ex-madam called Stormy Summers who's running for Mayor of Adelaide on a prostitutes' rights platform. He's bleached his hair."

"I wish you hadn't told me that", I said. "It's too weird. People will think I make up all this shit".
See 'Distributor troubles' and 'Itinerary of an overactivist: The Rodney Johnstone files'.