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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Brushtail Graphics

The long, lost, weekend

27 April 2000

Easter took me by surprise. I had worked till 3 a.m. on Friday phoning my banking contacts in Europe but after several hours of fruitless leads I was no closer to Alan Bond's secret stash. I was still brooding about the dog doping case and I slept badly and dreamed horrible dreams of death by greyhound.

I woke at eleven and went down to the café in a bleak mood. There was a notice on the door saying it was closed for renovations until Anzac Day and then I remembered I'd forgotten this and that Joadja had taken off on the bus to visit friends.

I climbed back up the stairs and shuffled to the kitchenette. There was not much to eat ... three mealy apples, some half-desiccated leftover vegetarian focaccia, three fridge-dried tomatoes and two slabs of cider.
Oh yes, two slabs of dry cider. Why not, I thought, I'll have a little party by myself. And so I did.

I woke up on the bean bag early on Saturday morning. My mouth felt like I'd licked the Oxford Street pavement from Whitlam Square to Gilligan's Island. There was a terrible thump, thump, thumping inside my head. Nausea.

A sort of serene panic overcame me. Make haste slowly. The bathroom ... the light seemed incredibly bright ... and then I was on my knees ... a heave of vomit and an instant relief ... no ... another wave of nausea ... another heave ... a sense of shame and relief. Green flecks of apple and red flecks of chilli crusted the side of the toilet bowl.

Sudden coldness and clarity. The fur on my chest was splattered with vomit. I eased myself down against the cold tiles and tried to breath deeply and regularly.

Sucked in. Ignored the warning signs. Stupid. So long since the last time I'd forgotten. Far too old to be making mistakes like that.

The Brushtail Café opened again on Anzac Day with a new cappuccino machine. It was a clear, quiet, desolate morning and I sat outside in the weak autumn sunlight with a black Timor Arabica and the faraway sound of bagpipes and Bruce the PR wanker.

"I'm trying to figure out what the market will do tomorrow", Bruce said with a gloomy and anxious air.
He had talked about little except his wretched share portfolio for a year. If we all followed his example, he had once insisted, we would all be rich. That was before he got out of south.seas just before the Nasdaq disaster and only 20 cents ahead. Since then he had watched his Eisa shares go south and had gone somewhat silent.

According to classical economic theory everybody who participates in the market makes rational decisions in their own best interest. But in a real crisis, just before the big stock market crash, there are few rational decisions, except perhaps to decide that you should have got out months ago.

"Bruce, the reality is that everybody can't be rich", I said "It's a myth of capitalism that gains currency just before the market goes down. The more people who try to become rich and live an idle rentier lifestyle, the less possible it becomes for anybody to do it. Unless most people work hard and live a relatively frugal life, the system crashes.

"None of this is new, Bruce. The stock market boom was never creating new value, it was just driving the price of a future benefit through the roof. Trouble is, it's been 70 years since anybody saw a real market crash, and there are three whole generations who know nothing of these things ... people are gunna get burned".

We sat in silence for a couple of minutes. "So you think the market will go down further?" Bruce asked. The weekend had gone on too long. It had been four days since he had had his fix of market news. Cold Turkey. He was so desperate he was trying to guess whether a possum might have guessed what the other punters were thinking the market would do on the morrow.

• • •

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

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