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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Labor only went bad after Bob Carr resigned
A desperate myth for desperate times

29 March 2011

Before the polling booths closed last Saturday, even before they opened, long before the whole ghastly, long-expected political bloodbath unfolded, in fact, since the campaign began, the spinmeisters of the ALP have arriving as if by telepathy at a redemptive myth: the NSW Labor Government only went bad after Bob Carr resigned in 2005.

When I turned on the ABC election coverage on Saturday night, ,Gladys “The Magic Armenian” Berejiklian, was dutifully trying to establish another myth – that the Liberal victory had fundamentally come because of Barry O’Farrell’s genius – but I could see her heart wasn’t in it.

At the end of the table Labor apparatchik Mark Foley was abasing himself. It was a total, massive, unprecedented disaster for which they had only themselves to blame. But as he groped for words there was this sense that under Carr Labor held together as a team, focussed, magnificent … after Carr,  they spent more time fighting each other … lost touch with the punters, blah, blah. Without utter humility and deep soul-searching in the months and years ahead the party couldn’t reform, blah, blah.

When Kristina Keneally came on to concede defeat she took a bet each way. The masses hadn’t deserted Labor, she said, Labor had deserted the masses. But then, remarkably, she went on to talk about all the wonderful things they’d done in their time in power.

You can’t have it both ways unless you identify a moment after which you started to slide down the greasy pole, and the gathering implication was that the moment was Carr’s resignation.

So let’s talk about the real Bob Carr: the man was, second to John Howard, the most successful faker in Australian politics. Because Labor’s humiliating defeat wasn’t about disunity, corruption and personal greed (although there was that in abundance), it was about lousy governance. It was about building the wrong infrastructure and running a right-wing social agenda dictated by a handful of shock-jocks; it was about failure to lead; about failure to anticipate  global crises like peak oil. And it all started with Bob and the style of conservative spin-cycle managerialism of which he was the finest exponent.

It was Bob Carr who bid higher than anybody else in the cruel and counterproductive law-and-order auction that came to characterise NSW elections. It was Bob Carr who commanded  the pathetic war on drugs. It was Bob Carr who gutted the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and turned the Land and Environment Court into what should have been called the Land and Development Court. It was Bob who gave us the wonderfully-named Casino Control Authority, which winked at every sort of abuse.

It was under Bob Carr that figures as odious as Mick Costa, Joe Tripodi, Eddie Obeid and Eric Roozendaal  came to prominence.

It was Bob who shaped up as though he was going to make light rail a feature of Sydney’s public transport mix, but in his time there were no more extensions to the mode.

Bob talked constantly about not allowing the RTA and tollways to dominate Sydney, but that’s precisely the regime he pursued relentlessly. Of all the public transport infrastructure projects promised in Transport 2010 virtually none eventuated but all the gridlock-inducing motorway projects were completed and then some: the Eastern Distributor, the M7, the Cross-City and Lane Cove tunnels. It was under Bob Carr that the RTA perfected the technique of flagrantly concocting outrageously high traffic predictions to justify the tollways it wanted. Bob was the premier who could write eloquent opinion pieces about climate change while building motorways.

It was under Carr that the public-private infrastructure partnerships that have looted the public purse reached, hopefully, their maximum extent.

But that was Bob all over. His technique was to say all the right things in an authoritative way and do the opposite.

For years, virtually every mainstrean journalist was a sucker for Bob. Bob, they told us, was a genuine intellectual, at home with Bill Clinton, Gore Vidal, Paul Erlich, Norman Mailer and even the profoundly ugly and right wing James Ellroy. A whole generation of journalists loved Bob for the deft cynicism of his touch. Journalists like master Labor hagiographer Craig McGregor, who, back in 1999, in very, very, gentle interview of the type referred to in the industry as a blow-job, even let Bob tell us … that he was the only thing standing between  NSW and civil war:

Do you feel you could have made more radical decisions in your time as Premier? – When it comes to change we’ve pushed the social reform agenda as much as any state government. I’m satisfied with what we’ve done.

Too many compromises? –You have to have a measure of compromise for things to work. The alternative to compromise is either rule by a dictator, or civil war.

So what really happened here? What did the last 16 years really signify? Labor came to power in 1995 when a flood tide of capitalist triumphalism and the ALP’s leaders – never a bastion of left-wing principle – found themselves happily buoyed up the social scale with the tide. The rot started with Bob.