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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Over an oil barrel

2 December 1999

It was Friday afternoon and I was listening to 2UE when the phone rang. Jonesie and Lawsie's mate Mike Carlton was slagging off at the cyclists from Critical Mass who had blocked the Harbour Bridge again on their monthly ride.

I let the bugger ring for a while before I picked it up. It was one of the consumer groups. There was talk of a 7 cent-a-litre rise in the price of petrol and wild rumours of a dollar a litre by this time next year They wanted me to look into what the bastards from the oil companies were up to. It was another conspiracy they said, and they wanted names.

I wasn't sure they were right but the money was good and they wanted info fast, so I took the brief.
My first port of call was my old friend Charlie Richardson, the energy commentator.

"It's no conspiracy", he said. "The immediate crisis has been caused by Iraq putting a shot across the bows of the UN, but the underlying problems are the real story. You'll remember that the oil the Iraqis can sell under the 'oil for food' program gets renegotiated every six months, well, the UN decided to delay its decision by two weeks and the Iraqis jacked up and refused to sell -- they make up about 5 per cent of world production at the moment -- and that sent the price from $25 to $28 a barrel".

"That can't be all there is to it", I said. "That's as high as it was during the Gulf war. It's gone up from $10 a barrel in a year."

"Well no, the Iraqi decision comes on top of the OPEC production cuts, which were designed to get the price off the floor ... and that was reinforced by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico, who aren't in OPEC, going along with the cuts."

"And of course we're going into the northern winter, and the Yanks will be stocking up with oil for heating."

"That's right, and South-East Asia is struggling out of its little crisis and starting to buy more oil."

"So the price could stay up for some time?" I asked.

"Well, it'll go up and it'll go down down, but the trend will be pretty relentlessly up. You've got to remember that none of these manoeuvrings with supply would work for the oil producing countries if it wasn't for the underlying geological reality -- we've used about half of the stuff and it's getting harder and harder to find and more and more expensive to extract. At the moment we're discovering 6 billion barrels annually but we're using 23 billion -- and if South East Asia booms again it'll jump pretty quickly to 26 billion."

"What'll Clinton be doing?"

"I imagine he'd be putting pressure on the Mexicans and the Venezuelans to increase production and the Japanese and the Europeans would be pressuring the Saudis, but these people know that a bigger and bigger percentage of the world's oil reserves will be in their hands with each passing year. They've got the world over an oil barrel."

"So the days of cheap oil are over?"

"That's it. It's going to be uphill all the way -- and of course it'll fuel inflation".

"Makes the radical cyclists look good doesn't it" I said, "Instead of slagging off at them, the media ought to be calling them heroes, patriots even. Think of how much we'd save on the oil import bill if a quarter of the population cycled to work."