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 undertaking of great advantage

2 March 2000

When I went down to the Brushtail Cafe at 10 am on Thursday morning, nursing a badly gnawed tail, Joadja handed me Ben Hills' story on Johnson Wang -- "Australia's Bill Gates" -- in the Sydney Morning Herald.

I had been hoping for a late breakfast and a little passing sympathy but when my eyes passed over the page I got the sort of warm feeling creeping over my skin that you feel when you piss in your wetsuit.

I had got my tail chomped at 2.30 am on the edge of Killara Golf Course by somebody's fucking pig-dog while I was doing some snooping into the affairs of Mr Wang and his internet company, Eisa, which were trying to buy Ozemail ahead of Telstra. I got my claws in the dog's eye sockets and he let go. There was a moment of confused grappling but I seized him in the possum grip and bashed him against the paling fence and he bolted off into the darkness, yelping hideously.

Johnson Wang, is Eisa's founder, deputy chairman, and the major shareholder. In 1996 John Howard presented him with the National Bank's Ethnic Businessman of the Year Award, but last Friday he was "uncontactable" and had left the company in the hands of the Eisa CEO, a hapless MBA who answered to the name of Damien Brady.

It must have been the worst day of Brady's short life, fending off relentless media inquiries about the weird goings-on in Wang's companies which included the mysterious torching of his Killara home, an $2.5 million inside-job theft of computer chips, a current law suit from Microsoft and a devastating judgement from a New Zealand court for selling motherboards with dummy cache chips.

A bunch of jerks have invested $57 million in Eisa in an orgy of speculation that industry specialists described as the second-hottest technology float of 1999, but by Friday many people were wondering if they'd done their dough. Most of the country's internet business journalists were laying low.

The Herald described Eisa as a "net giant" but, truth to tell, it's just a tiny Melbourne-based internet provider which has never made a profit -- another highly speculative play in the increasingly shaky world of technology stocks.

Eisa had been plugged relentlessly in the papers by a sloe-eyed cartoon nymphette called Lisa who looked like she'd been hand-crafted to appeal to both lesbians and SNAGS by some ad agency committee. "Call Lisa at eisa", the line went. She promised to get you on the net for a cent a minute, and from the way her eyes were narrowed and her left eyebrow cocked, you felt she was a warm-hearted lass who might happily do the right thing ... if you asked her nicely.

I was snickering over these things and a cup of Joadja's Timor Arabica when Bruce and Tarkis came in. They were looking less than ecstatic.

"So how are your shares in south.seas going", I asked innocently.

"I was hoping you wouldn't ask", Bruce said. "All of a sudden they went down, and I just managed to get out, twenty cents ahead."

"You were lucky, Comrade. What did you do with the proceeds?"

"I put the lot in Eisa. I suppose you read this morning's paper."

"Yeah, sorry about that. I would have warned you first, if I'd have known, but you yuppies have got to understand ... you're fucking with stuff you don't understand. Have you ever heard of the original South Seas Bubble?" I asked.

"I suppose you're going to tell us."

"It took place in 1720 It was the first big crash of a capitalist boom. There was even a float for "an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is". Can't tell you the story now, tho. I've got an appointment with the lawyers about the Moran case", I said. And that was how we left it.

• • •

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

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