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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madness@wall.street.com

20 January 2000

When Bruce and Tarkis swaggered into the cafe and called for a bottle of Bollinger I kept very still behind my newspaper, but it was no use.

"Stop lurkin' over there Nick, you scruffy old gumshoe! Come and have a drink with us", Tarkis said, tossing his bankcard to Joadja with an extravagant flourish.

"What's the occasion?" I asked warily. I have lived a long time and learned to avoid PR types.

"We're celebrating Bruce's big windfall. His south.seas shares doubled in value after the big internet merger -- they're worth $345 each" Tarkis said.

"Wow! So you sold them then?"

"No, of course not! They're sure to go higher", Bruce said, popping the cork so it ricocheted off the ceiling.

"Do they pay much of a dividend?"

"Dividend?"

"Basic capitalism. A dividend is when the company makes a profit and gives you some of it on a per-share basis", I spoke slowly and clearly. It was a concept not well understood in the new capitalism.

"No, they've never made an actual profit, but the losses have been getting smaller for the last three years. They only lost fourteen million last year."

"Gosh! What was the turnover?"

"Thirty-two million but the point is, this is the future. The internet is going to change the whole way we live and do business."

Tarkis took up the theme: "All the media technologies are converging, and south.seas is in a strategic position. Soon you'll be able to use your TV to access the internet, or download movies to watch". He sounded like he'd been reading Paul Sheehan, or even those rod-wallopers from biz.com.

"Maybe so, but I access the internet already and on the very odd occasion I get a video from the shop up the road. What's the difference? The video shop will close down and I'll watch TV on my computer monitor. So what?"

"The whole basis of retailing is going to change -- you'll be able to do your shopping on the internet and pay for it instantly!"

"So what? I've done a fair bit of shopping using the electric telephone and the Yellow Pages in my time. I paid for it instantly on the Bankcard. And I've bought a few things out of catalogues, although sometimes what turned up wasn't quite what was in the photo. Internet marketing is like the old catalogue marketing. It works for some things but not for others. Sometimes you don't feel comfortable unless you can fondle the merchandise. Anyway, what do south.seas actually do? Is it a search engine?"

"Oh no! It's much more it's a portal incorporating a user-friendly interface fronting a search engine that interrogates other search engines."

"Wow. How does it actually make money?"

"It was floated on Wall Street. It's valued at $97 billion."
"Yes, that's the market valuation ... it means that if everybody who has shares sells them at the last price quoted, that's what they'll all get for their shares. Of course, in the real world, if everybody tries to sell at once, the price crashes. Anyway, the point is, it doesn't give the company a cent more. What I meant was, how does south.seas generate cash-flow on a daily basis? What does it actually sell apart from shares?"

"Those little banner advertisements at the top of the homepage."

"So they just sell a bit of advertising like everybody else."

"Well no, it isn't just advertising, that's just part of it, it's a question of strategic positioning. It's a new industrial revolution ... a stake in the future".

"It's just another technology!", I said. "It'll displace some things, there'll be a few surprises, it'll lead us in directions we didn't expect, but it isn't going to change everything. I mean, why did you come down here to celebrate? why didn't you order a crate of bubbly on the internet and sit in the office surfing the net? I'll tell you why: it was easier and quicker, and reality is more fun."

"You're such a cynic", Bruce said.

• • •

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

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.