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

Faith, hype and clarity

23 November 2000

It was grey and overcast, cool and muggy at Central station and everything was wet. It felt like all of Sydney's weather credits had been used up on the Olympics. My fur was damp and mouldy and the water dripping off the platform roof felt like it was seeping into my soul.

I was tailing a code warrior to see who his contacts were. His partners in a glitzy dot com startup suspected he was selling what they grandly called "confidential technology" to their rivals, but it looked to me like a hysterical reaction to their inevitable demise. When they rang to ask if I'd take the job I checked up on them. They were burning whole sackfuls of cash every day, they had no incomings, and their rivals were doing no better.

Perfect. It looked like a safer job than the alternative, which was an investigation of Tom Domican's industrial relations consultancy. The dot coms were going to hell on bicycles and I didn't mind relieving them of a wad of cash along the way.

My target got on a train, so I followed and sat down behind him. He was a compulsive mobile phone screamer with a shaved head and a Californian accent, and it wasn't hard to evesdrop.

"... I can confirm to you absolutely the technology works on our test environment when installed ...", he affirmed for the whole carriage.

It wasn't a long ride. He got off at St James and I followed him across Hyde Park to the Australian Museum, where he joined a woman for lunch at the café. I lurked in the Museum shop on the other side of the foyer and took a couple of snaps of her for identification purposes.

The target returned to the office after lunch and I walked back to Werrong Lane in the rain. I bought the papers and went back to my desk. The papers were damp and limp and only the most incurable bull would have found comfort in them. After several decades of Keynesian pump-priming, Japan was a quagmire of bad debt. The Phillipines were a basket case, Indonesia was spinning out of control and Russia was sliding back into the autocracy which it has never really escaped. The price of oil was rising relentlessly, the Nasdaq was staggering downhill, the Dow-Jones was wildly overvalued and people were beginning to notice.

"One of the great debates about the 1929 Crash concerns whether the slump was triggered by problems in the so-called real economy or whether it was just a ghastly accident of stockmarket psychology", Old Possum remarked, when I later joined him for a drink at the Brushtail Café.

"In his history of the crash, John Kenneth Galbraith came down on the side of the ghastly accident. Personally, I don't believe that's correct, but in a way it's a fruitless debate, for how can you separate the dancer from the dance?

"The world economy is like a wild ecosystem, but with this difference: it's made up of one species, humans, who are capable of changing their behavioural responses very quickly and the shift in the psychology of a zillion participants can suddenly feed back into the system.

"While they're all in a mood to believe the hype of a golden future full of fabulous profits and fat dividends the stockmarket rises to impossible heights. Then suddenly both the rational judgements and the instincts of millions of people converge in the thought that things are heading downwards; it's all an illusion; it can't last; it's time to cash-up and get out."

"The decline and the premonition of decline reinforce each other. For a while the economists and the politicians talk the economy up and when things get desperate, the big players try propping up the market, but these are puny forces in the face of a big slide."

"Yeah, and now there's the election debacle in the US, and the prospect of four years of a hung legislature and a president without much authority", I said, feeling glad I slept in the ceiling above an office I owned.