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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Nick Greiner is a loose cannon on the gundeck of government

27 September 2011

Every spin doctor worth his salt knows you have to keep a sharp eye on the negative metaphor meter.

With his huge majority in parliament, Barry O’Farrell should be cruising along with the job of government, steadily implementing the backlog of public transport infrastructure left by his hopeless predecessors. Positive metaphors like “safe pair of hands” and “runs on the board” should be the order of the day but things are stalling and ghastly negative political metaphors are already piling up like Winston Churchill’s “terrible ifs” accumulating.

Let’s start with a couple of classic cliches: Barry is sitting on a political time-bomb of his own making; hoist with his own petard. Hey, if you don’t like Barry, don’t bother getting aroused by those rumours about a National Party minister exposing himself in back lanes in Darlinghurst. That sort of scandal might just chip one or two MPs out of a huge majority, but handing a group of ideological market-fundamentalist  nut-jobs an institutional platform to lord it over elected cabinet ministers and meddle in the running of the ship of state is just stone crazy.

I refer of course to Infrastructure NSW.

This dumb saga brings to mind the old fable of the turtle and the scorpion.

One day a turtle met a scorpion on the banks of a swollen river. “Please, I have to cross the river, but I can’t swim. Can you carry me on your back?” said the scorpion.

“Are you kidding?” replied the turtle (who was a decent but plodding soul). “You’ll sting me, and then I’ll die. No way I’m giving you a lift!”

“But if I stung you, then I’d drown. That’s your guarantee”, the scorpion replied.

The turtle thought about this. It seemed a reasonable point and maybe, just maybe, his act of kindness would be remembered and might forge a friendship, so he told the scorpion to climb on his back and they set off across the river.

When they were half way across, the scorpion stung the turtle.

 “Now we’ll both die!” The hapless turtle exclaimed as he started to loose consciousness. “Why? Why?”

“Because I’m a scorpion”, said the scorpion, whose name was Nicolas Frank Hugo ‘The Pusher Man’ Greiner.

The word is all over town that Greiner, with a staggering lack of discretion, is bad-mouthing, to anyone who’ll listen, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian  – perhaps Barry’s best and most popular minister – and her new integrated Transport for NSW ministry.

From whoever you hear it, the story is pretty much the same. The Pusher Man has “issues with” Gladys who is moving “too fast”on public transport projects like the North West Rail Link; Greiner’s Infrastructure NSW bunch are going to “beat up” Transport for NSW who know nothing about transport planning; Sydney needs more and bigger tollways and “congestion charging” on the whole the road network; the government isn’t really committed to light rail, and Greiner wants everything to stop for 18 months while he devises a 20 year plan for everything in the state.

What on earth was O’Farrell thinking when he set up Infrastructure NSW and appointed the former premier and his big business privateers to the board? It can’t be a nod to Greiner’s political genius because the man managed to transform an electoral landslide in 1988 into a minority government in 1991. It can’t be because of his infrastructure expertise because so many of the public-private partnership projects sponsored by the old Thatcherite idealogue and his mates have proved to be planning and fiscal disasters. And it can’t be because of his blameless reputation because subsequent to his short-lived premiership he headed up the Australian operations of British American Tobacco, the knowing  purveyors of death by cancer.

The only half-workable  explanation for Infrastructure NSW  I’ve heard so far is that Greiner’s gang are incredibly powerful in the counsels of the Liberal Party and that Barry thought he’d buy their silence by giving them the political equivalent of a sand pit to play infrastructure games in, asked them to come up with some interesting concepts he could maybe think about,  and told them not to rush it.

If that was the strategy, it’s already gone disastrously wrong. No premier can afford to have a loose cannon like Greiner crashing around the slippery and lurching gundeck of government.