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 Vichy Republic of Balmain Peninsula

21 July 1999

When I went down to the Brushtail Café, Joadja was behind the bar regaling an audience of the afternoon regulars.

" ... suit like a tent, and then this huge scowling bulk lurched towards the door ... "

"Don't tell me you slipped out to see Orson Welles in Touch of Evil again", I said. She must have gone back to the Chauvel to see the director's cut three times since we saw it the night Ross Gittins jumped the queue.

"No, no. Paddy McGuinness was in the newsagent, doing some copying and look what he left on the photocopier."

She handed me a couple of beer coasters from the Riverview Hotel and went on with the story of her close encounter. On the backs of the coasters was what appeared to be a to-do list for next Monday's Balmain residents' meeting.

The rich burghers of Balmain were rising up angry. They were pouring too many of their hard-earned dollars into council rates, only to see them subsidise the scum in poorer sections of Leichhardt municipality -- and even Balmain itself. It was a harsh and unconscionable imposition on stockbrokers, columnists, TV execs, merchant bankers, retailers, corporate lawyers, ministerial staffers, radio 'personalities' and other pillars of the elite, they said.

I laid the Chardonnay-stained coasters side-by-side on the counter and deciphered the scrawled list.

"Jobs for Committee:

"1. Contact Les Murray re preamble for Balmain constitution.

"2. Ring Helen Darville. Can she be Ethnic Affairs Officer? If not: Paul Sheehan? Bill Hayden?

"3. Marlboro ads on Town Hall and council cars.

"4. Council-subsidised Quadrant subscription for every household. Arrange to close library.

"5. Offer flag of convenience registrations for Japanese whaling fleet (spin: oppose Western cultural imperialism).

"6. Recognise Indonesian sovereignty in East Timor (too small to be viable entity). Offer asylum to General Pinochet. Ring Bill Skate for his Taiwan contact's name ($50m enuf?).

"7. Privatise municipality (talk to David Humphries re this). Promise cashback bonus for all residents [this word was struck out] municipal stockholders.

"8. Arrange security wall on Rozelle side, customs post on Darling Street.

"9. Workshop formal title for the new entity?"

Ah, yes, I thought, a formal title. How about The Vichy Republic of Balmain Peninsula? Another gated community for the seriously well-off; another fantasy-land response to the pressures of the age. A polite Hansonism for the well-heeled. "The civil society" for the very civil. Funny how it's the globalisation freaks who are doing this. Like the foreign quarter of Shanghai in the old days, when the imperialists ran China. "No dogs or Chinese", the signs used to say.

Perhaps, on the other hand, why not -- if that's the way they want it? Why not concentrate the whole ghastly problem in the one place and quarantine it? We could arrange to have them all go into exile in Balmain: General Suharto and the merchant banker Milosevic, Boris Yeltsin, John Howard, Paul Keating and John Laws, when the time comes.

• • •

INCLUDED in Whispers from the mean streets -- Best of 1999

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.