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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Peak Oil
The turd on the table

1 July 2005

Rain, glorious rain! Oil-slicked water coursed down Werrong Lane, piling plastic bags and bottles up on the drain grates. There wasn’t much work in the PI game, but thanks to a fat cheque from Simone Warne I didn’t really need it anyway, so I hunkered down in the Brushtail Café brooding over a cider and the week’s newspapers.

It was pouring in Sydney, and the North Coast and even west of the mountains, but still Warragamba Dam wasn’t filling up. It just wasn’t raining where Sydney really needed it.

It was an object lesson in resource constraints. If rain won’t fall on the catchment, you won’t get any water in the dam and you’re going to have to figure out Plan B, pronto.

It reminded me of that other huge, unthinkable problem; the one that’s behind the inexorable rise in the price of petrol. It’s so big, scary and imminent that nobody in the mainstream media or the government will mention it, even though it’s sitting there like a big steaming turd on the political table.

I was contemplating this metaphor when Bruce and Tarkis from the advertising agency ambled into the café, dripping water on the floor.

“Geez, didja see the price of petrol down at the servo. You reckon this is the Peak Oil thing?” Bruce asked me.

“Yeah, It’ll be worse by Christmas”, I said. “Just look at these dumb evasions in the Sydney Morning Herald. On Saturday 25 June the front page headline reads ‘Crude shock – get ready for $1.20 a litre’ and ‘PM admits he is powerless to act’, but if you searched the entire story you couldn’t find the words ‘Peak Oil’ anywhere.”

I riffled through a few more papers. “And look, it got sillier a couple of days later, when Matt Wade wrote a story headlined ‘Steep petrol prices locked in for years’. So why is it rising? Once again Peak Oil doesn’t figure. ‘Lingering concerns about the world’s oil refining capacity and perceived threats to supplies from oil-rich Nigeria’, is Matt’s guess. Silly Kim Beazley’s calling for more tax cuts so the punters can afford to keep guzzling gas. And talk about the bleeding obvious – Qantas Boss Geoff Dixon says he isn’t confident oil prices will fall dramatically in the next two or three years.”

Tarkis plonked three ciders down on the table. “Is that the best Sydney’s ‘newspaper of record’ can do? Talk about studious avoidance of the facts! The price of crude suddenly hits $60 a barrel in the middle of the northern summer and they put it down to lingering concerns about refining capacity? What do they think will happen during the northern winter, when demand really shoots up?”

“Absolutely. This isn’t about refining, it’s about supplies of crude oil. It’s about the fact that the world has already used up just about half of all the extractable oil in the ground. Within five years at the outside, supplies will start going south by at least two per cent every year, … and demand just keeps going north.”

I took a swig on my cider. “Although they won’t admit it, every government in the world that isn’t headed by total morons suspects that’s true. The Chinese are watching the Americans who are eying the Europeans, and they’re all deciding they’d better move fast and bid highest to corner whatever source they can ’cos they know it’s going to get harder and harder to get – at whatever price. This isn’t going to be a nice thing to watch. Markets won’t sort it out. The Iraq war is just the start.

“But apart from squabbling over sources, no government in the world is seriously preparing for the post oil world. Even if there was complete international agreement and we all started moving now, there’s no way we won’t have big, big problems.”

“Whaddya reckon about these hybrid cars, like the Prius – are they the answer?” Tarkis asked. “They only use half the fuel”.

“Who’s producing them? Only Toyota”, I said. “Who’s buying them? A tiny handful. They cost around thirty-six grand. It’ll take years just to gear up all the major manufacturers to put hybrids into volume production. Until that time the companies producing cheap, standard, petrol cars have all the advantage. Even when hybrids become reasonably affordable, say in about 2010, it’ll take another ten years, minimum, to replace the existing car fleet. And by 2015, fuel supplies will have been in decline for at least five years … at the rate of at least 2 per cent a year.”

“So in 40 years time it’ll be virtually unobtainable. Scary, huh.”

We’re not running out of oil … yet
(but we’re running out of time to prepare for Peak Oil)

10 May 2005
Sydney civil engineer MATT MUSHALIK takes a cool, rational, look at the world’s rapidly-approaching energy crisis.

Not a week passes without media reports on rising petrol prices and tight oil supplies. Often the impression is given that we’re dealing with a temporary coincidence of unrelated events and that oil prices will go back to “normal”. Few of these articles analyse the situation in enough detail to explain the root cause – the successive and continuous peaking of oil production in many oil producing countries. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>