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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The flight to Versailles

29 June 2000

The bourgeois bohemians are off to Paris for the high season. Paddy McGuinness has been flagging his trip for weeks but Peter Costello kept his travel plans under wraps until they leaked to the press, or perhaps it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Who can blame him for wanting to escape the last ghastly week of media disasters before the GST hits?

Paul Keating is probably already wandering carefree down the Champs Elysees. He once reportedly remarked that the only good way to see Darwin was at 40,000 feet on the way to Paris, but that was before defeat and exile. The Emperor recently made one of his rare visits to the old estate at Bankstown, to bless a park which the peasants had named in his honour.

Kerry Chikarovski should have been in Paris by now, rediscovering herself as a Woman, but things didn't go according to plan and she is doomed to wander the treacherous corridors of Macquarie Street for a few more futile months.

Paddy and Peter will fly first-class, of course. Peter, because he is, after all, the Treasurer of Australia, and Paddy, because, well, to put it diplomatically, he is a man of substance and too generously-proportioned for a standard economy-class seat. They will probably try to put Paddy in the aisle seat to get him nearest to the plane's centre of gravity and the pilot will trim the tabs, or transfer fuel to the opposite wing, to make up the difference.

News of the dual exodus finally solved a mystery which had been exercising observers of the Incomprehensible Right since Paddy announced his trip three weeks ago: who would dine with The People's Champion on his pilgrimage to the finer restaurants of Paris? This year it's a fair bet he'll be tucking in with the treasurer. Paddy tells us he's going to the exclusive La Coupole in Monteparnasse -- a place you can't walk into without spending the sort of money most people think of as a week's wages.

This time last year it was his very old and very dear friend Bob Carr, at a nice little place in the Palais de Louvre. Paddy couldn't help telling the story in his column but he couldn't recall who paid the bill. Which seems odd: you go to dinner in Paris with the Premier of NSW, and you can't remember who paid the bill? Perhaps, among bourgeoise bohemians, these things matter so little the details are easily forgotten. Me? I remember who paid when my long-lost business partner Bruce Possum and I did lunch at Darcy's back in 1973 (it was Bruce).

Peter and Paddy have lots to celebrate. Peter has pulled off the biggest wealth transfer in Australian history, a trick that eluded Emperor Keating and the hapless Cardinal Hewson. Over aperatifs they'll tell each those stories of outrageous front that politicians and spin doctors love. They'll be a few laughs about Paddy praising the GST as "a very fair tax". After all, if people like him pay more to eat at top nosheries, they pay more tax ... simple as that ... what could be fairer? The whinging swine should count themselves lucky too. If they flew to Paris to eat at La Coupole, they'd be paying tax at 20.6 per cent. It ain't easy bein' rich. Ho ho, that'll bamboozle 'em!

And tears of laughter will roll down their cheeks and into the Bollinger when Paddy tells Peter how he lashed the arts community in his last column. If they didn't get on side with what he called "popular feeling" against Reconciliation and in favour of mandatory sentencing, they had only themselves to blame if people thought them elitist.

• • •

INCLUDED in Whispers from the mean streets -- Best of 2000

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.