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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Higher, faster, dumber

7 September 2000

Friday morning was beautiful. The sun slanted through the Norfolk pines as I tailed my target through Manly towards his 8 a.m. appointment with the ferry. From all directions a stream of lawyers, stockbrokers, executives, currency dealers and spin doctors drifted towards the wharf.

High above, a little plane was writing TOYOTA in a clear blue sky. and I wondered whether the Toyota people hadn't already reorganised their advertising budget in anticipation of John Laws spending time planting Pinus radiata seedlings on some bleak windswept hillside near Oberon. Oh, what a feeling that would be, if only it happened!

But it probably wouldn't, I thought. Lawsie may theoretically be facing seven years but he'll most likely get a community service order, or a fine and a good behaviour bond ... previous good character and all that.
At the newsagent on the wharf, I queued up behind the merchant banker I was tailing for the Casino Inquiry and bought a Herald. I looked for a rubbish bin to stow the wad of advertising junk that comes with it, but all the bins had been removed so terrorists couldn't hide bombs in them.

Final Olympic preparations are in full swing, and the bracing competition between Third World terrorists and the burgeoning ranks of 'security specialists' is just one aspect of the pursuit of excellence. Across the globe, armies of industrial chemists, physiologists, bio-mechanical experts and other fabulously paid bozos have worked overtime concocting industrial-strength steroids, human growth hormones and exotic chemicals to make athletes go higher, faster, stronger. Their role is winding down now, but hundreds of 'sports medicine' experts at dozens of training camps have swung into action, carefully overseeing the dosages so that these things are virtually undetectable when the time comes.

And all this to stay pretty much in the same place. All this investment to break records in ever-decreasing increments. They need laser-triggered stopwatches now; devices that slice seconds into Einsteinian slivers, just to tell the difference. Inevitably, the medal tally will be dominated by a tiny handful of the richest countries.

"What you're talking about is a hard lesson from the science of ecology that gets ignored because it doesn't square with the corporate mythology of our times", Old Possum said when I raised the matter with him back to the café that afternoon. Joadja flipped the top off another cider and slid it down the bar into his waiting paw.

"Everybody gibbers on about competition, but the end result of all sustained competition in the same niche is monopoly. The only way to retain some semblance of competition is an agreement not to really compete", he continued.

"This four airline thing is a wonderful example. We've been through this lunacy twice before with the Compass fiasco. The only way they were ever able to keep two airlines flying the same domestic routes was with a finely-tuned agreement to 'compete' only within strict guidelines.

"These price wars have a dumb logic of their own. The airlines lose a fortune on every bum they put on a seat and they burn up their profits. The public are well aware it can't last long, so they rush the cheap fares. All at once, people do all the travelling they'd planned to do and sooner or later the whole cheap travel niche collapses. The last suckers holding tickets do their dough when one of the airlines goes broke, and then the business reverts to something more sustainable.

"In the end Virgin and Impulse will either go out of business or they'll gravitate to unoccupied niche markets at the edge of the main game. Whichever way you cut it, you can't run an airliner with the same fare structure as bus. The numbers just don't work.

"Yeah, the more things change, the more they remain the same", I said, feeling that the second cider was tasting better than the first.