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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Trouble in gangland

29 August 2001

I sat in the café brooding over the papers. It was a time of fear and confusion. A loose network of ethnic and religious gangs were terrorising the neighbourhood -- an unstable alliance of tribes that worked a variety of rackets, large and small.

At the top of the food chain were two mega gangs, mostly Anglo-Celts, known as The Feds. The Libs, led by the ailing John 'Never Ever' Howard were currently, the top dogs. Their sometime rivals were Kim 'Fat Boy' Beazley's mob. The Feds were mainly into wage-slave trading, deregulation, taxation rackets, expenses scams, privatisations, something called "the sharemarket" and other white collar crime.

Rumour had it that old Howard was on the skids. His GST racket had hurt a lot of small business folk, the foot soldiers who had once supported his mob, and now they were muttering darkly and thirsting for vengeance.

Since the time of the founding godfather, Ming the Merciless, The Libs had been in an alliance with The Nats, who were previously known as The Countries, sometimes shortened to [we won't print that -- editor]. The Nats worked the rural rackets, but they were under challenge from Pauline 'Redhead' Hanson's ultra-Celtic crazies who called themselves One Nation. Fat Boy's mob were aiming to wipe The Libs out by the end of the year, and One Nation were looking to pick up what was left of the rural rackets.

On Sydney's streets the Carr Boys (aka The NSW Right) were the most feared gang. They had almost completely wiped out their rivals, The Chikas, and insiders said the only reason they didn't rub them out completely was Godfather Carr's belief that if they did, somebody tougher might arise in their place.

Sometimes the Carr Boys combined with small-time ethnic gangsters (like Phuong Ngo, who was now doing time for rubbing out John 'The Slav' Newman, a Carr Boy from Cabramatta), but fundamentally the Carr Boys were an Irish Catholic mob which, in the manner of the Sicilian Mafia, ran a protection racket sponging off the trade unions. They controlled the cops and worked nice fat deals with the big construction companies.

On the surface the ethnic mobs look pretty invincible, but there was one sign they were in trouble: they were all looking for alliances with the underworld consultants collectively known as (whisper it with respect), The Holy Men.

In the old days these God mobs had made an elaborate charade of keeping their distance from the crude pistoleros who ran the streets for the ethnic gangs, but things changed after The Libs did a deal with them and subcontracted out the lucrative employment rackets. Then a mob called The Salvos, led by 'Major' Brian Watters was subcontracted to keep drugs illegal. Not long afterwards Howard appointed a holy man who called himself 'Doctor' Hollingworth, to the post of 'Governor-General' -- a sort of ceremonial head of all the mobs.

The biggest of the God mobs were The Anglicans -- smooth Anglos who once had a virtual monopoly on the weddings-and-funerals racket in their homeland, but were now in decline -- and The Tykes, an Italian-Irish mob which had recently been taken over by a flamboyant Melbourne holy man called Crazy Mad Pells. Many rivals were gunning for Pells but he was surrounded by a fanatical praetorian guard called The Spice Girls -- gay priests who wore black dresses and ran a bizarre line in homophobia and misogyny.

Pells was trying to sell a new taxation racket to the Federal mobs. The details were sketchy, but the basic idea was a tax on the "guilty" party in divorces. In one of the more bizarre plays in the Byzantine world of mob politics, the Pells mob had got together with The Quadrants (aka 'The Rants'), a grab-bag of ideological misfits led by a fat renegade atheist called Padraic 'Paddy' McGuinness, to push the scheme.

When I first moved to Werrong Lane it was a happy little community where it was generally accepted that religion was, like sex, a matter between consenting adults. Every now and then Adventists came doorknocking, but they just wanted to sell tracts and they pissed off if you threatened to turn the hose on them. You didn't expect to be shaken down by creepy Anglican fanatics brandishing electric guitars.

Still, I have lived a long time and seen many things and I felt there was an air of desperation about all this inbred manoeuvring, the sort of crazy atmosphere of denial that comes when a criminal subculture is in trouble.