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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Heroin and circuses

17 February 1999

It was the sort of week that private investigators hate -- full of lousy beer money jobs you couldn't turn down, and that made you feel bad about the world.

It started with the sad middle-aged couple from the outer suburbs who wanted me to find their daughter. She had run away from home again and disappeared into Sydney's nightmarish heroin underworld. It was a harrowing tale of social isolation and cheap education and unemployment and long hours driving to lousy jobs and terrible boredom and disappointments and dumb boyfriends.

I took the job for $25 an hour plus expenses. It wasn't likely to end happily and there was a fair chance I'd find she was already dead, but I started making the usual phone calls to the usual contacts.

Suddenly somebody was tapping on the side window, which looks down into Werrong Lane. This was unusual because my office is on the second floor. I spun around and saw Michael Knight leering through the window. Then there were four of him.

It turned out to be the Michael Knight Riders practicing their routine for the Gay Mardi Gras parade. They were teetering around in the lane on their stilts, wearing sequined running shorts and smiling Michael's sly smile.
"Hey Nick, can you test us out on our routine", the head Knight asked. "On the big night we'll have somebody in a Peter FitzSimons mask walking in front throwing up questions with the megaphone and we'll be chanting out the answers."

He passed me a megaphone and I started with some simple ones.

"Will you be investigating Phil Coles' Sydney Olympics travel arrangements?"

"Look, I'm not about to bag Phil Coles, maybe he has lots of frequent flyer points", they chanted back.

"Why don't you release all Sydney's Olympic bid documents for public scrutiny?"

"There's no way I want to start a witch hunt against the former state government this far out from the elections".

"What do you say to the proposition that the world Olympic movement is just one big feed trough for wealthy sports bureaucrats".

"I'm not going to start bagging members of the Olympic community. I know they all personally do a lot to support the recreation industry".

"Do you think we should apologise to Manchester?"

"I've never bagged Manchester and I'm not going to start now."

"What if the world economy crashes before the games, and nobody comes?"

"Look, I'm not going to get into bagging Alan Greenspan and Wall Street and the World Bank. You should ask Alan."

"People are saying that the AOC and the IOC are wallowing in money while the state's basic services are running down".

"Look, I'm not about to bag the public".

"You're a class act", I admitted, "where did you learn that patter?"

"Oh, we just hired Michael's media consultant."

The Knights continued practicing their routine: three steps forward, two steps back and a neat sidestep ... smiling and waving.

What is the whole thing really about, I thought: health? fitness? happiness? fun? international understanding? wellbeing? Nah, it's about sales: concrete, steel, plastic, earth moving equipment, airline bookings, hotel rooms, video gear, hamburgers, uniforms, steroids, shoes, advertising.

Ah yes, 2000 will be a great year to be out of Sydney. There'll be tears and traumas and desperate cheating and ugly drug scandals and much posturing. Not much of it will be noble or happy. Records will be broken by times so infintesimable that it will take the finest atomic clocks to detect the amount. The biggest, richest, countries will win nearly all the medals -- because they have lots of people and the biggest sports institutes and the most cunning "sports medicine" experts.

There'll be tawdry spectacles and lots of cheap gimcracks. At the end of 2000 the big circus will be over and Sydneysiders will go back to work on overcrowded infrequent trains. Most of the city will still have no public transport infrastructure, and many schools will have dilapidated classrooms and not even basic sports facilities and more country hospitals will have closed and the Hawkesbury will still be polluted and we'll still be pumping shit into the ocean and there'll be more homeless on the streets and there'll be a big public debt to pay off.

But we will have more overscaled infrastructure -- a huge Roman Circus. And the patricians will write long self-serving memoirs and squabble over the spoils.

I walked down to the park. The sun had finally come out and steam was rising from the soggy grass. A bunch of kiddies were kicking a cheap K-Mart soccer ball around -- running and laughing and falling over. A bunch of losers who didn't have the Olympic Spirit. And I sat down on the old wooden bench and I felt better because I remembered that Rome wasn't destroyed in a day.