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

An ocean view is like sex or money

24 February 2000

"The majestic egalitarianism of the law, which forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

The French novelist Anatole France wrote that sometime last century. He died in 1924, but in the broad sweep of things not much has changed since his day.

I thought of France on Saturday afternoon as Joadja and I sat on the rocks at Shelly Beach where we had been forced by an invasion of bluebottles which drifted into the Manly surf on the stiff easterly breeze.

"Did you read some of those horrid letters in the papers about that poor boy who hung himself after they gaoled him for stealing a few Textas and paints", Joadja said. "They were rabid with hate! They said it was his own fault. My God, he was only 15 and the way they went on you'd think the young fella had murdered a dozen people in cold blood. Those redneck halfwits who run the Northern Territory have got hundreds of people in gaol, mostly koories, for stealing things worth a few dollars."

"Yeah, and I was reading that there are two million people in gaol in the US of A. They say in terms of population, prison is now the 32nd state of the Union. That's where mandatory sentencing gets you."

"And there are thousands on death row, and probably hundreds of them are innocent".

"And 90 per cent of them would have come from pretty bad circumstances."

We lapsed into silence. I gazed across the sparkling aqua blue water at the mansions on Bower Street and something made me think of Professor Jill Ker Conway, the chief executive of Lend Lease, who seems hell-bent on getting herself dubbed "Madam Avarice". Last year her wage packet came to a mere $386,736, which is somewhat on the modest side for a CEO but it's seven times the average wage and ten or twelve times what a factory worker would earn, nearly twice as much as the Prime Minister, and not the only wage she gets, but she doesn't think it's enough. "While the world is happy to pay athletes, rock stars, movie stars and entertainers ... I'm quite happy to compensate executives who perform at the same level", she said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

You can see Professor Conway's point of course. Barbara Streisand gets paid $40 million for an Australian tour and Tiger Woods will "earn" $51 million for a five year deal to promote Nike, the giant sportswear multinational, of which Conway is a director. Why should she rake in any less than them? How do you compare these things anyway? Streisand will sing a few songs and Tiger Woods will say a few things and smile like a winner and Conway will sign off on some corporate decisions. How can you tell what any of those things are "worth"? It's just what you can screw out of the system.

Just to put it into perspective, $51 million is something like 35 times what an Australian factory worker or a tradesman or even a middle manager could earn in a whole lifetime of work and a hundred thousand times what one of the hapless Third World suckers who work in Nike's sweatshops earn for a year's relentless toil, actually making the shoes.

It's greed gone mad, a huge rip-off. None of these people are worth that much, but it's their system and it looks after them. If they step out of line they get beaten with a feather. I've run a few shonky "entrepreneurs" and crooked company directors to ground in my years as a PI. They ripped people off for tens of millions, but some got off on technicalities and none of them ever got more than four years and they were all out after 18 months. Anatole France also said: "Justice is the means by which established injustices are sanctioned".

I looked up again at the mansions on the hillside, perched above the blue Pacific. The people who live in them probably never look at that view. It's just an upmarket backdrop to them. An ocean view is like sex, or money they say: when you've got it, you don't need it.

• • •

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

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