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 McGuinness nomination
28 January 2003

When the fax machine chattered into life a few months ago, I hoped it might be the cops offering me some more meaningless but lucrative surveillance work in The Great Terror Alert but the document turned out to be wrongly directed.

It was from a mob called the Honour our Prophets Committee and it was directed to the Council for the Order of Australia and it bore some impressive legal boilerplate to the effect that, were received in error, it should be destroyed. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, however, I feel free to divulge the contents:

“We, the undersigned, nominate Padraic Pearse (Paddy) McGuinness, BEc (Hons), MSc, tenured columnist with the Sydney Morning Herald, for Office in the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to journalism by virtue of his work in encouraging and stimulating wide-ranging debate and exchange of ideas within the community and by raising awareness of economic, social policy and human rights issues.

“Mr McGuinness exemplifies the left-to-right political trajectory of many Australian commentators of the post World War II period. He was a caftan-wearing libertarian when caftans and free love were in vogue, a fair-weather leftist when the leftism was fashionable, a Paris revolutionary in May-June 1968, an economist for the Moscow Narodny Bank under the Stalinist Soviet regime and a Whitlam government staffer in the years of that unfortunate experiment.

“The years following Whitlam’s fall were difficult ones for our nominee. An immediate rapprochment with the new Liberal government being hardly possible, he turned to journalism and, showing admirable resourcefulness, slid gracefully to the right as leader writer of the Financial Review and later as columnist for The Australian.

“By the late 1970s, natural irrascability, combined with the knee-jerk conservatism that comes naturally to some with age, happily opened new career paths. Like a huge black windsock, Mr McGuinness turned, mouth open, towards the refreshing winds of the new political conservatism, a tendency he has since served faithfully as a “public intellectual” (a term of which it has been said --most unfairly in our opinion -- that it derives by analogy, from “public woman”, a euphemism of Victorian times).

“The genesis of Mr McGuinness’s original contribution to the craft of journalism would at first glance seem unprepossessing. The Sydney Push was a bohemian drinking circle, philosophical talk shop, flop-house and pimp service for ambitious intellectuals bound for careers as controversialists and commentators.

“The intellectual hallmark of this demimondaine clique was ‘contrarianism’, a morally flexible and intellectually convenient stance that our nominee developed from a drinking-circle game to a successful and distinguished career.

“It is Mr McGuinness’s special contribution that he focussed his efforts in opposition to the working intelligentsia -- teachers, academics, journalists, public servants, lawyers, judges, medical researchers, artists, ecologists, trade union official and such like.

“Whatever he deemed to be the average opinion held by this notoriously troublesome social strata (of which he himself, ironically, was so patently a representative) he subjected to strident, wordy and repetitous assaults, blanket condemnation and sweeping allegation.

“Over many years this body of work has stimulated wide-ranging public debate by providing opportunity for carefully argued rebuttal and (most popularly) satirical riposte, for which his characteristic bombast and many egregious errors of fact provided ample scope.

“Mr McGuinness’s support for privatisation of public assets, the Suharto regime, Japanese whaling, detention of asylum-seekers, General Pinochet, Mal Colston, Louis Farrakhan’s proto-fascist Fruit of Islam militia and the fraudulently-named Helen Demidenko, author of the anti-semitic novel The Hand that Signed the Paper, not to mention his opposition to the ABC, Amnesty International, Reconciliation, Aboriginal land rights, labelling of GM foods and female columnists (about whom he wittily remarked that they had “great difficulty writing about anything other than their pussy or their pussies”) are widely recognised as a legendary part of our journalistic heritage.

“But it is perhaps his dogged rearguard defence of the rights of tobacco companies, in the face of the escalating exposure of the deleterious effects of that substance which best characterises our nominee’s contribution to raising awareness of economic, social policy and human rights issues.

“In conclusion we wish to draw attention to Mr McGuinness’s long and principled opposition to the debasement of this award system. As long ago as 1996 he warned that “dubious awards under the Order of Australia are damaging and debasing the value of the awards given to the reputable”. It is indeed a matter of concern that awards have been handed out to courtiers, bourgeois bohemians and simple careerists. The elevation of Padraic Pearse McGuinness to the Order will be a widely applauded as a stand against this lamentable tendancy.

“We remain,

“Yours Sincerely, etc, etc,”

[names deleted].