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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Shooting the village explainers

13 December 2007

There’s a large agenda of work, and I’d much rather have the public service hard at work over the summer rather than down at Batemans Bay with you folks.
Kevin Rudd (speaking to Caucus).

Every so often Joadja and I escape to the old shack at Possum Point that dad built in 1949. A couple of years later he was killed training Bluey Crabtree’s greyhounds at the old Nelligan racetrack. The cops said it was an accident, of course, and there wasn’t much left of dad after the dogs had finished with him.

Crabtree was the foreman at the Batemans Bay timber mill and dad was the Timber Workers Union delegate. That put them at odds but according to mum he thought Crabtree was a decent bloke at heart and helping him with his dogs was a good way to keep the lines open with the bosses.

It was a silly idea. Possums should never trust redneck cretins or brainless killer dogs.

Not long after the funeral mum left Possum Gully and took me to Sydney. She never went back, but Possum Point we returned to for holidays. Like Batemans Bay, the little village has been changed by the huge salaries at the top end of the federal public service. The tiny weatherboard and fibro weekends have almost all gone now, replaced by new brick, steel and glass houses. I don’t know if it makes these people any happier. They chop down the beautiful old spotted gums to build huge edifices that sit empty for most of the year, then, after a few years, they retire, rattle around the empty rooms for a few more years, hoping the kids will visit, chop down some more gums and then they die.

But me, I take comfort in the old verandah, the creaky old floorboards, the old furniture, the wattlebirds in the old banksia, the old bluetongue that lives under the old shed and the old view through the gums to the sea.

And so there we were, sipping cold ciders and watching the counterglow rising over the ocean.

“Hey, my main marsupial, that bit of snooping you did on the Lindsay leaflet operation was brilliant!” said Joadja. “What a coup. You destroyed Howard’s last hope of an eleventh hour swing back.”

“That one was for dad.” I said. “But breathe not a word to anyone else about it. The wonderful thing is that the Liberal nasties faction think it was one of their own who dobbed the fake pamphleteers in to the ALP and they’re tearing the place apart looking for the traitor. We don’t want to spoil the fun by tipping them off that I found out, shall we just say, technologically.”

“Mum’s the word.”

However Howard might try to distance himself from the tawdry scam of the fake islamist pamphlet operation it reproduced, in microcosm, the political style of his rise and ascendancy. Prompted by Pauline Hanson and leaning on the intellectual respectability provided by Geoffrey Blainey, the lying little bastard came to power by exploiting an underlying fear of east Asians that stretched back to the White Australia policy. Once in office, the imperative of protecting relations with our Asian trading partners dictated a shift in scapegoats. Long before 9/11 the Howard punditocracy had deftly moved to vilifying Arabs and Muslims – tiny and previously unremarkable minorities.

“You know it wasn’t as if that was the first time Howard’s shock troops used the fake Labor pamphlet trick. Remember the previous federal election? Remember how they distributed a bogus ALP pamphlet targeting Labor candidate Ed Husic – a non-practicing Muslim – on the night before the election. That was in Greenway, the neighbouring electorate. The similarity in technique suggests that the participants in the Lindsay scam might have been involved in the Greenway affair.”

“How could I forget?” said Jo. “That was the one that said ‘Ed Husic is a devout Muslim. Ed is working hard to get a better deal for Islam’. And I remember that Paul Sheehan was dog-whistling about Husic in the Herald”.

“Yeah, he was. Almost like it was a coordinated part of the operation.”

“You know when I was sure Howard was going to lose? It was when Sheehan slipped away from Fort Howard at the end of October. I always knew that Miranda Devine and Gerard Henderson, dog-loyal Howard soldiers, would fall at their posts, but not Sheehan – he snuffed defeat, slipped over the wall and vanished into the scrub in search of a new leader. Now he’s back in the Sydney Morning Herald putting down Bob Brown and the Greens and sucking up to the new government.”

“Ho, ho. But I’m not sure how happy they’ll be with Paul’s embrace. This is the most blatant anti-union, anti-Muslim, witch-hunter and dog-whistler in print and the man who spruiked shamelessly for ‘Magic Water’, Qantas, Krispy Kreme donuts and Arnott’s Tim Tams. As a shill, he’s past his use-by date; on the nose; shop soiled; of doubtful utility. After a few years, even hopelessly naive people get to understand what you really stand for.”

“He always reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s judgement on Ezra Pound: ‘A village explainer. Fine if one were a village, but if not, not’.”

“And we know where he ended up, politically speaking. I reckon, over the next few months, there’ll be a clearing out of the old conservative pundits. The big media bosses will just shoot a few of them and recruit some new ones who aren’t too closely associated with Howard. I’m betting Christian Kerr, from Crikey, will be first cab off the rank.”


The Sydney Morning Herald and the dirty politics of the religious right
1 November 2004
No story about the 2004 Federal election more clearly illustrates the reactionary role played by the religious right than the Muslim-baiting of Ed Husic, Labor’s candidate for the seat of Greenway in Sydney’s west.

Too good to be true
Paul Sheehan and the magic water debacle

1 February 2005
The inventor of the magic mineral water that’s supposed to cure everything from arthritis to Alzheimers plus make you live forever and have many babies skips town causing celebrity right-wing journalist Paul Sheehan a great deal of embarrassment.

The horror! The horror!
Mistah Beckett he vanished

The truth is never pure and rarely simple, as Joseph Conrad knew and the Sydney Morning Herald’s right wing celebrity journalist, Paul Sheehan, should have remembered. Copyright violations by GAVIN GATENBY.

To hell with summer soldiers and sunshine patriots
30 January 2007
I was sunning myself with a cider outside the Brushtail Café on Australia Day when a bunch of drunken Anglo yobs spilled out of the pub on the other side of Sydney Road. For a while they waved a big Australian flag at the traffic chanting “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” They were mostly young men but I seemed to recognise Peter Debnam and Morris Iemma among their number. Piers Ackerman, Alan Jones, Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan, Janet Albrechtsen and a bunch of other shock-jocks, right-wing columnists and howardista spin doctors lurked in the pub doorway, urging them on.