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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Nightmare on Macquarie Street

9 June 1999

The week had been a sleazy one in the NSW politics racket and many people were feeling nervous in Macquarie Street. There were rumours that Bruce George "Pretty Boy" Baird was in town as an emissary from John Winston "The Godfather" Howard.

They say Pretty Boy's mission is to organise the numbers to toss Kerry "Chika" Chikarovski from the leadership of the local mob.

Once, not so many months ago, some of the biggest boys from the big end of town had backed Chika -- The Godfather himself, Fairfax chairman Brian Powers, the Macquarie Bank boys, Rod McGeoch -- but that was before the election, and the election was a disaster. Now they wished they had stayed with Peter "The Bantam" Collins.

Chika was a lame duck. She had failed to smash the rival mob and she could never stack up against Bob "The Fixer" Carr. She was a loser and she had to be "retired", as they say in the game.

Which goes to show how wrong the marketing wankers can get it, with their daily phone polling and focus groups and concept products.

When the deal went down, Chika was just a marketing strategy, a sales pitch, a glossy package. She was like one of those muscular plastic war toys with missile launchers for arms and rockets for feet. Five minutes after you give them to the kiddies, the legs have been ripped off, the batteries go flat, and the kiddies are back in the yard pushing a brick through the dirt making roads, or throwing stones at the cat.

Now she is just a nasty embarassment for the little group behind her coup -- John Howard, Peter Debnam, Mike Gallacher, Malcolm Kerr, Chris Hartcher, Barry O'Farrell, Mark "Lenin" Textor and Charlie "Motivator" Lynn, who runs treks over the Kokoda Trail for top businessmen and members of the Liberal Party, including Chika, who made the trek in '97.

Nobody needs a lame duck and they didn't need her back-room boy, Remo "Numbers" Nogarotto, either.

The end will be brutal and sudden when it comes, and they say it will be in the next three months. If your duck goes lame, you shoot it. Journalists who ask after Chika will be met with confusion and a failure to remember. If they persist they will be told she's gone to Paris, to sip coffee in cafés and "rediscover herself as a woman".

Pretty Boy was a shrewd choice for the mission. Once he was Ampol's chief political lobbyist. He was Minister for Roads under former mob boss Nicholas "The Hungarian" Greiner. After Nick was deposed, Pretty Boy went off to run the Tourism Council.

Everybody who knew anything about The Libs knew who they wanted for the top job -- it was Barry Robert "Fatty O'Barrell" O'Farrell.

Out of idle interest I got out the O'Farrell file. According to the papers presented with his nomination for selection for Liberal candidate for the seat of Northcott, back in '95, he was now just 40 years old and educated in Darwin. He had a BA from the ANU ("Majors: Australian history, politics, Aboriginal studies"), was a member of Rotary (naturally), a former broadcaster on Radio for the Print Handicapped (worthy), a JP (ditto) and had been "Active in student politics while at university" (wasn't everybody?). It all seemed pretty lightweight.

But his links with Pretty Boy and The Godfather couldn't have been closer. He had been "Chief of Staff" to Pretty Boy for four years and then "Private Secretary" to The Godfather for three. His wife, Rosemary, had been Pretty Boy's "Electorate Secretary" for three years. Fatty was at pains to point out his closeness to Pretty Boy, and he had glowing references from Gerard "The Tyke" Henderson, John Valder, and somebody called "The Hon Robert Webster".

Maybe Paris will be a neat solution for Chika. She has been back on the singles beat for a couple of years now. Paris will be a swinging scene in the years to come. The Soeharto kids will be there in force and Paul Keating will fly in regularly. There will be many wild parties and quiet afternoons on the boulevard and Macquarie Street will seem like a bad nightmare.