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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The truth is out there somewhere

28 October 1999

I have always enjoyed carpentry (and plastering, plumbing, and painting for that matter) and last week was a good time to be renovating. I left a message on the answering machine that said: "Sorry, Nick Possum is on assignment for the next couple of weeks. Please leave a message after the beep", and started building the staircase.

By Tuesday morning I'd accumulated a small mountain of debris. I needed a rubbish skip so I riffled through the Yellow Pages and rang AAA Clean n' Gone: (Motto: 'We're Cleaning Up').

Not a problem, a bloke called Mick told me. A four cubic metre skip for $235. "Mid-morning tomorrow".
Wednesday morning came and went and there was no sign of Clean 'n Gone. I rang Mick.

"He'll be there in half an hour", he said.

Nothing happened for a couple of hours, so I rang back.

"He says he definitely delivered it."

"Well I reckon your skip must be blocking a Wollongong Lane somewhere, 'cos it isn't in Werrong Lane" I replied.

"It's young Dave. I'll call him again. Ring you right back."

He didn't. An hour later I rang him.

"Yep. He got the street wrong like I thought. Dropped it in Wollongong Lane. He'll be there in half an hour", he laughed and hung up.

Right. Not the best possible plan, but a good plan carried out quickly, as we used to say in the army. Two hours later I heard the beep, beep, beep, of a truck backing into the lane and so I went down with the chequebook.

"Sorry I'm late, mate" the young bloke said. "Locked myself in the bathroom by accident, had to call the locksmith to get me out. Lucky I had the mobile on me."

"Isn't it a bugger. Happens to me all the time", I muttered.

I wrote out a cheque and signed the delivery docket. The delivery address read "WERRONG INVESTIGATIONS, WERRONG LANE. OFF SYDNEY ST" in a bold and clear hand.

To my amazement I filled the skip in a couple of hours and there was still a big pile of rubble left. When Dave came back for the skip on Wednesday morning I said I'd better get another. He rang Mick on his mobile. Mid-morning Thursday, he said. No worries.

At 2:00 pm on Thursday it hadn't arrived, so I called Clean 'n Gone.

"Ah yeah, it's young Jason. Ah, he's just had to deliver one to a Meriton job, in Sutherland. He'll be there in half an hour."

"Yeah, wouldn't want to let Mr Triguboff down, would we", I said. At nightfall it hadn't arrived.
At 10:00 am on Friday it still hadn't arrived so I called back. This time I got an answering service. The lady said he'd ring me right back. Mick rang at 1.30.

"Jason's been having a lot of personal problems lately. His mum's on chemotherapy and his personal trauma counselor's partner just died of AIDS, so his appointment was delayed. Fucking poofs, you know what they're like. He'll be there in half an hour"

"As always", I said.

Jason arrived at 4:30 with his bull terrier riding beside him. He was a couple of metres high, wearing a blue singlet and grubby stubbies. He had "LOVE" tattooed on the knuckes of his left hand and "HATE" on his right.

Lashed to the back of the truck were a couple of big framed posters he'd rescued from somebody's skip: naked blond women with big tits posed on motorcycles.

"Sorry I'm late, mate", he said, "They put me dog in detention at obedience school. Had to drive out to Pendle Hill to pick him up and then I blew a tyre on the M4." He glanced up at my shingle, hanging above the lane. "How's the PI game going anyway?" he asked.

"Just great", I muttered as I scrawled out a cheque. "Koffi Annan just hired me for six figures to look into the John Howard-and-Paul Keating-are-gay-lovers allegations."

• • •

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

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.