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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Why spend $12 billion to satisfy a couple of thousand idiots?

14 August 2012

“Nick Greiner’s absolutely nuts” said Tarkis through a mouthful of Joadja’s special $8.50 vegetarian breakfast wrap. “He wants to dig up Parramatta Road for about ten kilometres, six or eight lanes wide, to sink a tollway under it. That’d take a decade at least, and what’s petrol going to cost by then?”

“Couldn’t agree more”, I said. “And all those billions he wants O’Farrell or the feds to pour into private tollways would be money spent on worsening Sydney’s problems, not solving them. The peak period Parramatta Road problem is created by a tiny handful of commuters who insist on driving.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I looked up the RMS traffic statistics and in the morning 2-hour peak, there are only about 6,000 vehicles inbound on Parramatta Road. That figure is for the vehicles passing under Battle Bridge at the foot of Taveners Hill. Outside of the peaks, the road flows freely. There’s no way it’s over-capacity.”

“Hang on, you mean the whole problem is created by less than 6,000 vehicles.”

“Right”, I said, taking another sip of my long black. “Think about it. Of those 6,000 vehicles, less than three hundred are buses, and maybe fifteen hundred are commercial  vehicles – folk who have a good reason to be there – and most of the rest are overpaid idiots who think it’s cool to drive to work in the CBD because some other idiot pays their parking bill.

“If we moved just 2,000 peak period motorists to a fast, civilised, light rail service along Parramatta Road to the city, the road would be freed up, even in the peaks. It would be scandalous to squander $12 billion to pander to a couple of thousand dickheads while hundreds of thousands are struggling to get on public transport every morning.”

Tarkis thought about it while he sucked some crumbs off his finger. “But what about the buses? There’s bus transit lanes and lots of the red bendy metro buses zoom along Parramatta Road in the peaks.”

“That’s the whole point. A single modern 45 metre tram can carry more than twice as many passengers as a bendy bus.

“And most of those buses don’t pick up along Parramatta Road.  They collect commuters from suburbs north and south of the road and then they turn it and rush into the city because it’s the shortest most direct route.

“So right down Parramatta Road a multitude of bus routes are duplicating each other. That’s a hell of a lot of wasted time. It would be a more efficient use of buses if they were running twice as often in the suburbs they pick up from – which would be easy if they weren’t wasting all that time and petrol running all the way to the CBD – and instead they fed commuters into a few interchanges where they waited an average of a minute or less to be whisked into the city.”

“But hang on, wouldn’t those trams have to stop now and then to pick up on Parramatta Road?” he said.

“Of course, but firstly, in the peaks, they’d be running at least every two minutes, and their Parramatta Road stops would be at major traffic lights. The lights would be controlled by a transponder in the tram. When the tram stopped to pick up passengers, the lights would go red. Once the tram had picked up and was ready to go, the lights would turn green. No time lost at all. Secondly, with the feeder buses running twice as often, or better, commuters would be saving several minutes on the wait for the bus. This stuff is an art form in Europe. We really do have to catch up.”

“So the implication of what you’re saying is that ‘Nicotine Nick’ Greiner and his greedhead construction company mates in Infrastructure NSW are proposing to spend $12 billion on what would be the world’s longest underground motorway just so that two thousand idiot petrolhead commuters can drive to the city in style. But that’s monstrous. If you didn’t build this stupid tollway, you could spend the money on a huge light rail network and more rail lines …”

“Hey, and on freight rail. Don’t forget the other part of the problem”, I said. “We should be getting half of all the freight containers on rail. That was the original idea when they decided to set up Port Botany way back in the early 80s. But year after year, government after government, the trucking lobby got their evil way and more and more and bigger and bigger trucks have invaded and endangered the streets. You know, it isn’t this way anywhere overseas that’s half-civilized.”