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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Velikovsky vindicated (more or less)

11 November 1999

We were sitting quietly on the roof, contemplating the night sky and sipping cider, when a big shooting star burned out in the sky above us.

"Remember Velikovsky?" Joadja asked.

"You mean the Ukranian embezzler I ran to ground back in '83", I replied.

"No you flippant marsupial, I mean Immanuel Velikovsky, the writer."

"Ah yes, the nutty scholar and catastrophist, published Worlds in Collision sometime about 1950."

"So you'll remember", Joadja continued, "That he had this theory that many of the unexplained phenomena of history, the biblical-type fire-and-brimstone, flaming-swords-in-the-heavens things had their causes in massive extra-terrestrial forces. He reckoned that in the second millenium BC, the planet Venus got out of orbit and wandered around the inner solar system, and Mars did the same thing in the first millenium. They passed close to the Earth and caused all sorts of catastropies that the people of the time had no hope of understanding."

"And those things were usually associated with plagues and famines and wars, republican referendums, and the death of kings", I added, thinking of the Book of Revelations and wishing to sound erudite.

"Yeah, well, in a funny way he was seaching for a rational scientific explanation of these events, but his theory about the cause was so whacky no scientist could accept it. His book gave catastrophism a bad name and it got relegated to the back of the second-hand bookshops with the back issues of Quadrant and old astrology tomes".

"Well anyway, there's a rational core to the whole thing, according to this new book I'm reading by some dendrochronologist called Mike Baillie"*.

"Dendrochronology -- you refer to the science of tree-ring dating?" I asked.

"Indeed. The tree-ring boffins are getting pretty sophisticated nowadays. They're using ancient living trees and very old preserved timbers from all over the world and now they've got a sequence of absolute dates going back thousands of years. The point about which is that their dates are real calandar dates arrived at independently of the very subjective historical records. The tree-rings don't lie. You can see big environmental catastrophies in tree-rings. A run of, say, five very bad seasons, shows up, all over the world, in a characteristic pattern, like a fingerprint".

"Gee, I love a good scientific detective story. So where did Velikovsky go wrong?" I asked.

"He couldn't conceive of a small asteroid or big comet -- something even as big as a few kilometres in diameter -- doing much damage to the Earth, so he opted for something much bigger. Now, however, all scientists accept that a chunk of rock, or ice, that big would wipe out most life on earth and in the past, of course, it did.

"Like the Great Cretaceous Extinction, when the dinosaurs and most other life forms were wiped out by the comet 65 million years ago.

"So if you scale back Velikovsky's loony notion of wandering planets to something rational -- a near miss from a few middle-sized chunks of interplanetary junk or the occasional hit from a small comet -- like the Tunguska Event in 1908 -- you do get a plausible explanation for all those seemingly mythical events. Direct hits by planetary junk cause big dust-clouds -- natural nuclear winters -- which block out the sun and bring crop-failure and famine and death. And in some cases these coincide strongly with the historically recorded, or estimated, dates of what we once thought were unexplainable events or mythical gibberish.

"And the remarkable thing is that very similar descriptions of catastrophic celestial events crop up in the ancient records or myths of the Chinese, Celts, Egyptians and the Aztecs".

"Next step: a scientific explanation of John Howard's thought processes?"

"Nah, beyond science, at least in this generation", Jo replied.

*Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets, Mike Baillie, B. T. Batsford, London, 1999.