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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Fats in the ranks

11 August 1999

They don't call them 'the Incomprehensible Right' for nothing. Try to understand the Quadrant crowd and you'll get hopelessly confused yourself. It's a trap I've fallen into too many times, but this week I swore off it forever.

The problem began with a long-winded justification of the Balmain Burghers Rebellion by Paddy McGuinness in his Sydney Morning Herald column. The Great Fulminator announced that his adviser on the structure and financial operations of the longed-for market fundamentalist mini-state was none other than John Mant.

Paddy described Mant as a former acting ombudsman and a town planning expert. I knew he'd also been a fringe member of the Sydney Push, a libertarian talk shop and drinking club which faded away in the early 70s, so he and Paddy went back a long way.

But at first glance the story made no sense. John Mant is the sort of bloke Bob Carr employs to head up New Age think-ins – really big picture, very long range conceptual stuff like the recent Urban Strategy Task Force, which recommended two NSW Government super ministries: a Ministry for Place and a Ministry for Access. Nothing much has been heard about this concept since, and Mant was last sighted at a protest meeting called by Clover Moore, where he was arguing Sydney needed more tollways like the Eastern Distributor.

And the Carr Government seems hell-bent on even bigger councils, not miniscule ones, so I doubted whether Mant would be found that far away from Bob's agenda, into which, presumably, he had had what Carr's secretive inner clique call "input".

It must be a mistake, I thought and Paddy often gets names wrong. A few months ago he spread confusion in planning circles when he announced that the new Sydney Harbour foreshores supremo was Jeremy Watkins, when everyone was sure Jeremy Dawkins -- the brother of the former Keating Government minister John Dawkins, and a former UTS lecturer -- had been appointed. In June Paddy assailed the Menzies Foundation, a worthy trust which funds scholarships for young Australians to study in 'the Mother Country', mistaking it for the Menzies Research Centre, a right-wing think-tank headed by his old friend Dr Marlene Goldsmith.

I was still uneasy about the Mant story when I flicked through the Balmain Village Voice and the plot suddenly took a weird twist. According to the Voice, Paddy's adviser was one John Mack. I had never heard of Mack, but surely the Voice couldn't be wrong. It was, after all, the journal of the revolt, a monthly mag owned and edited by one Kylie Davis (whom Paddy reckons is a potential Rupert Murdoch, but perhaps he means Anna Murdoch or Rupert Bear. Who knows?).

Then, the next day, on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, beneath a photo of ranks of statuesque nude and near-nude women teetering on 4 inch stilletos, "Professor John Mack" leapt off the page. It seemed that Mack and Michael Easson (board member of the Macquarie Bank's Infrastructure Trust of Australia and another identity closely associated with the Carr Government) were both board members of the terminally doomed 'Museum of Contemporary Art' which had brought Vanessa Beecroft's 'VB40' tits and bums installation to Sydney in what looked like a last-ditch attempt to stave off bankruptcy.

I phoned a few contacts and found that Mack was a professor of maths and statistics at Sydney University.

Right. Nude bimbos. Statistics. Vital statistics. Macquarie Bank. Market forces. The connections were tenuous but it seemed to add up.

"That couldn't be right", said my friend John the Engineer, when I phoned him at the Greens parliamentary office. "John Mack is a really nice bloke. One of the good guys. It must be a typo in the Village Voice. Journalists always get these things wrong."

He was probably right, which is a pity. The Balmain Rebellion is a ripping yarn: mad ideology, intrigue, power, ambition, greed, fat men in black. It would make a great Connolly-Anderson doco. Add a few naked women and it could be a transit lounge novel or even a musical.