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

Stranger things have happened

16 November 2000

I was sitting at the table outside the Brushtail Café when Bruce and Tarkis rode down the lane on their little fold-up scooters.

They ordered coffee and came out to join me, raving on about the simplicity and convenience of their new mode of travel.

I took it all with a grain of salt. Apart from the fact that PR types are notorious early-adaptors, I knew that Bruce had sold the BMW to repay the money he'd borrowed and lost in the Great Internet Share Debacle.

"Working on any interesting cases?" Tarkis asked.

"I've been hired by the Greenwich residents in the No Right Turn Affair", I replied.

"Oh, yeah, the poor bastards who didn't want more traffic through their street and they've run foul of Lawsie and Jonesie at 2UE, and the great men have pulled rank on them and gone straight to Roads Minister Carl Scully and got the RTA to reverse the new traffic arrangements", Bruce said.

"You know, after the cash for comment affair, I'd have thought that Carr and Chikarovski and their minions would have stopped taking calls from the terrible twosome, but they're still lining up to do their bidding", said Joadja as she put their coffees down. "It's amazing! Carl Scully has a bloke on his staff whose only job is to answer correspondence from Jonesie and keep him happy."

"I suppose if you get 20 per cent of the listening audience, you wield a lot of power", I said.

Tarkis snorted. "So they get 20 per cent of the listening audience. So what? Sounds big, but let's deconstruct this a bit. How many people are tuned in to radio during their time slots? Optimistically, it'd be one in twenty. More likely one in forty or fifty. They're from terminally grumpy demographics. They've got nasty grudges and they wet themselves with excitement when Lawsie or Jonesie give someone a spray. It's a vicarious power trip for people who really need to get a life.

"That means that one person in a hundred, or less, is tuned in to the bastards. Doesn't sound like much, but think about this: getting and holding a majority in state or federal parliament depends on winning a few seats that depend on a tiny handful of swinging voters ... that's what gives these blokes their incredible power over the politicians. Carr and Chikarovski could put them back in the box immediately if they quietly agreed not to talk to them, but both sides are so pathetically eager to land a glove on the other that 2UE can play them like a Punch and Judy show.

"Anyway, enough said. Boring. Consider this: Ralph Nader is still in with a chance to be President of the United States." He paused for effect.

"Pull the other one", I said. "How would that work?"

"Well, it goes like this: the deadlock continues and gets more complex and divisive. Both sides have some pretty fundamental arguments to feed to the party faithful. The parties are neck-and-neck in the House of Reps and the Senate, making it very difficult for either side to push a legislative program. Come 20 January, if it's still deadlocked, Congress can select a president from among the three candidates with the most votes."

"Well, I suppose any country that could spend months debating a blow-job, could make this situation run on for a while. So theoretically Ralph could walk up the middle to the White House. It makes sense: if you have a lame duck legislature, why not have a lame duck president? What's the alternative anyway?" I asked, suddenly impressed with Tarkis' grasp of US politics.

"Well, if they don't have a president by January 20, either the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Senate President becomes the acting president. The Senate President is Strom Thurmond and he's a 97 year old Republican. The Speaker of the Reps is J. Dennis Hastert who was Mad Newt Gingrich's right hand man. He's best known for overseeing the War on Drugs."

"Holy Mother of Darwin, Ralph's lookin' good", I said.