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 shock of the old

11 December 2009

Truly, if God does exist, she moves in mysterious ways. Who would have thought that Tony Abbott, the Mad Monk, Captain Catholic, the Budgie Smuggler, the man who dreams of an Australian theocracy would – all unexpectedly – end up as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition?

That muffled far-away cheering you can hear is Vince Gair and a thousand old Democratic Labor Party reactionaries shrieking with delight from the grave. Years after the old DLP shuffled off this mortal coil, here was its spirit again abroad in the land.

And then, a couple of days later, the DLP coup swept through the NSW Labor Party when the ersatz-left Nathan Rees was overthrown and the Obeid-Tripodi mafia installed Kristina Kerscher Keneally – Miss Vatican 08 herself – in the top job. The kid could hardly believe her luck. Once she was a (women’s) liberation theologian, but then she looked into the eyes of Pope Ratzinger – the most reactionary pontiff in decades – and decided it was all girlhood folly. And now she’s running the state, old Bob Santamaria reborn as a bland, blond, smart-arse American-accented valley girl.

Ah yes, Tony and Kristina are desperate choices for desperate times – monuments to the idea that, when faced with nasty and previously unimagined problems, one should fall back on old and failed solutions.

In Tony’s case, biblical obscurantism marches hand in hand with market fundamentalism.  Take peak oil. At last year’s Sydney Writers Festival, Abbott was asked what he understood about it. Claiming, unconvincingly,  that it was the first time he’d heard the term, he tried to deflect the question to fellow panelist Robert Manne who gave a basic but inadequate answer. Pressed again on the issue, Abbott fell back on the neo-classical economic argument that, when the price was high enough, all sorts of other sources of oil (like biofuels) would suddenly appear. What hilarious rot. Even if the new sources could, magically, equal the sheer volume of oil (and gas) the world now uses, the vastly higher price would cripple  the economy. Anyway, you can see it on YouTube. It’s a bit of video that’ll come back to haunt the demented ideologue.

Kristina Keneally, by contrast, strikes this possum more as power-hungry airhead, entirely free of technical insight, of a type that’s becoming the norm in NSW politics.

Let’s face it, Keneally wouldn’t now be premier if Rees hadn’t had his terrible rush of blood to the head and gone for exactly the wrong Big Public Transport Initiative.

If on the fateful day shortly after his accession the self-styled ‘guerilla group’ pitched him their spontaneous back-of-the-envelope concept for a CBD Metro, the new premier had thanked them politely, told them he’d sleep on it, and gone away and got some serious alternative advice on a subject about which he knew nothing, he’d still be premier.

If he’d have asked around, he would have discovered that not only would the Metro be extraordinarily expensive (even allowing for the breathtaking inflation of rail costs in NSW) but also that, for the same sum, he could build the long-awaited North-West and South-West rail links and the Parramatta-Epping link cancelled by Mick Costa and a raft of other rail improvements to boot.

But the goofy child-premier had to prove he was Action Jackson – strong, decisive and in-control. Despite being nominally of the left, he had to stick with the now-fashionable privately built and operated ‘solution’. He went for a $5.3 billion project that was totally useless unless he somehow managed to find another $8 billion. In the end he was frogmarched out of office muttering about a grand 30 year, $350 billion, ‘Transport Blueprint’ that incorporated virtually every road, rail and ferry project ever proposed for Sydney.

The tragedy was that, had Rees gone for the package of public transport projects he should have backed, he would certainly have got federal funding for at least one of them. Compared to the crazy leap-in-the-dark metro, the high-value western Sydney rail projects were shovel-ready and the Rudd Government’s Infrastructure Australia scheme would probably have half-funded at least one of them. As it was, Rees tried, pathetically, to con the feds into funding metro when he had nothing more than a Powerpoint  presentation full of typos.

If anything good comes out of the Keneally Koup, the demise of the CBD Metro might just be it. Certainly, Keneally never personally associated herself with Rees’ metro mania. Trouble is, she might just replace Rees’ obsession with the wrong public transport initiative with a return to Carr’s obsession with motorways. Certainly, the technological reactionaries of the RTA are preparing the groundwork.  Within days of Keneally’s accession, they launched a ‘public consultation’ for a doubling of the M5 motorway.