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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Burning oil, wasting time

28 September 2000

"Well, it's back to the future, now", Old Possum remarked, waving his walking stick at a tram full of Olympic visitors as it rolled passed us on its way towards Darling Harbour. "I nearly cried when they started pulling the trams out in the late '50s. Such a wonderful tramway system we had then. With this world oil shortage we're going to have to rebuild it, otherwise oil dependence is going to cripple us all."

"Yeah, the problem's really rushed to the surface in the last few weeks. Some analysts are saying it mightn't be long before it hits $50 a barrel", I said. "And did you see that Clinton's going to release 30 million barrels from the US government's emergency reserve to try to bring prices down before the northern winter. Of course he's got one eye on getting Al Gore elected, but there's also a real fear that people will freeze to death if it's a bad winter. They're even handing out $300 million to subsidise heating oil for the poor".

"The thirty million barrels won't go far!", Old snorted. "For the US, that's only about two day's supply! It'll have a psychological effect for a few hours, the price of oil will go down a bit, but you watch -- it'll bounce up over $35 a barrel in no time at all. That's the market economy -- if it's in short supply, the price is going to go up. Simple as that."

"Incredible isn't it", I said. "And only a few weeks ago, Steve Burrell, that sleek market fundamentalist who scribbles for the Herald, was confidently predicting the price of oil would have little effect on the world economy and in any case it'd stabilise at $25. He obviously hasn't got a clue about oil."

We watched the tram slipping easily through the Olympic crowds, its traditional tram bell ding-dinging a warning of its approach. Old Possum, I could tell, was warming to his topic.

"None of the politicians and columnists want to confront the grim truth: the problem isn't OPEC, it's geology", he continued. "Fact is, the world is burning the the stuff four times faster than it's being found. The geology of oil is so well understood that there're going to be no big surprises. The amount of oil the world produces is set to go into decline any time now. New oilfields are getting very hard to find, and the ones they're finding are small and very expensive to exploit.

"Our leaders and betters have a bad psychological block about the oil crisis. For years the geologists have been warning them it was going to happen, but when you're trying to convince the populace the capitalist nirvanah has finally arrived, you don't want to tell them petrol might have to be rationed!

"And think about this: reliance on oil is particularly disastrous for Australia. Our dollar is plummeting in value right at the time oil is rocketing up in price. Imagine what that's going to do to the balance of trade as oil supplies get tighter! And in the oil marketplace we're a small buyer with no political clout at all."

"You know what really worries me", I said. "It's that the politicians will waste the next few years trying to blame the whole thing on the Arabs. They won't try to explain the facts to people, they'll look for scapegoats. It'll be easier than confronting the awful truth."