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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Don’t mention the oil
Howard and Rudd avoid the burning issue of our time

10 November 2007

Oil has bumped $US100 a barrel. Right. That’s $US40 more than it was at the beginning of the year. Supplies of crude are getting tighter and tighter and competition for them more intense. If the situation from Pakistan to Palestine continues to deteriorate it’ll quickly go to $120 a barrel. If Bush tries to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age it could go anywhere.

Pretty soon, petrol will cost as much in Sydney as it did in the middle of the Nullabor a couple of years ago, but you won’t hear much debate about that grim fact from Liberal or Labor.

On the face of it you’d think Labor would be out there explaining their policies for the crisis and flogging the Howard Government for leaving Australia at the mercy of price inflation, swelling import bills and widespread social dislocation, but they, too would rather not talk about it. Most Labor politicians would rather not even think about it.

Welcome to the crisis that’ll dominate the 21st Century. This is peak oil, folks, and in all likelihood the peak happened late in 2005 or early 2006 (it’s something that can only be known in retrospect). From here on, it’s downhill all the way and none of the infrastructure for any alternative to the oil economy is in place – in fact, realistically it’s a couple of decades into the future, if we’re lucky, and whatever it is will be very expensive indeed.

The tragedy is that technocrats and scientific people (as opposed to politicians and economists) have been sounding the alarm on oil depletion for over a decade.

Brian J Fleay’s The Decline of the Age of Oil, a lucid popular explanation and the first Australian book on the subject, came out in December 1995. Fleay toured Australian capital cities to promote the book, but the media virtually ignored him and mainstream politicians treated him as if he was a nutcase.

Also in 1995, the highly respected Geneva-based Petroconsultants group produced a four-volume report: The World’s Oil Supply, 1930 – 2050, by Colin J Campbell and Jean H Leherrere, two veteran petroleum geologists. Admittedly, this document would have set you back $32,000, but if you just wanted a summary of the argument and evidence, you could have bought Volume I for a thousand bucks, and that surely was not beyond the reach of any responsible government department or minister.

In August 1996, this possum’s publishing house, Predawn Publications, produced a bootleg edition of key selected passages of the Petroconsultants report. It was widely circulated to mainstream journalists and politicians, but it was like pissing off North Head.

Today, the Petroconsultant’s report makes poignant reading:

It is probably unrealistic to expect any government to make serious provisions for the future, when all their experience has been in an epoch of growth fuelled by cheap oil. Most are dedicated to nothing else but growth at any price … Today, few have even the haziest idea of the constraints to oil supply, believing it to be as much a part of nature as the rivers that flow from the mountains to the sea. It is hoped that this report may be a small contribution to remedy that misconception.

Eleven years later, when the downturn has already happened, the political mainstream is still not confronting reality.

From these early attempts to raise the alarm the discussion of peak oil and its implications continued, but only in the fringe independent media and on the web. It’s fair to say that, down through the years, there have been more serious stories on peak oil in the City Hub, than the Sydney Morning Herald. Only over the last few months, very occasionally, has peak oil has got a passing mention in the mainstream media.

The state of denial has cost society dearly. A whole decade has been lost. Tough decisions about industry, agriculture and new public transport infrastructure that should have been made around the time that Howard came into office are still being evaded. That’s a whole decade that Labor had in opposition – time they could have used to popularise the problem and real alternative policies, but, of course, they didn’t.

Even now, politicians of both major parties continue to promise billions for new freeways, but little or nothing for rail and public transport.

The masses, meanwhile, are feeling the pinch from rising petrol prices and they’re voting with their feet. Over the last year there has been an extraordinary jump in Cityrail passenger numbers. Sydneysiders took 10 million more trips on the rail network. Passenger trips on the Illawarra line rose by 973,000, or 3.8 per cent, and on the East Hills-Airport line by 766,000, an astonishing 7.5 per cent. Any private business that saw a surge of custom like that would be moving frantically to meet it, but not our politicians – they’re planning more tollways.

Use your brain Morris, take the train
Oil’s inexorable decline must drive Sydney public transport reforms


29 September 2005
Possum News Network

History will record that the Carr Government’s greatest failure was that it squandered the opportunity to make timely preparations for “peak oil”. Few Australians are familiar with this phenomena, but its ramifications will seep into every aspect of political and social life in the coming years.

For a whole decade state cabinet ignored a sincere and increasingly strident warning from oil industry experts: the maximum possible level of world oil production was imminent and would be followed by inexorable decline. It remains to be seen whether the Iemma cabinet will face the issue squarely or remain in denial. ...