Michael Darby

Observations on politics and poetry by Australian bush poet, Michael Darby.

Michael was born in Sydney in 1945 and is a former Australian Army Officer who has been writing and broadcasting on politics and economics since 1972.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Meeting Report

Speech from the floor by Michael Darby at a debate "Islam is incompatible with democracy", conducted by the St James Ethics Centre at Angel Place, Sydney on Tuesday 15 April 2008. The following text is not warranted as a verbatim report, but is a recollection of impromptu remarks.

Mr Chairman

My name is Michael Darby. I represent the Australian Christian Nation Association, ACNA. I do not know whether Islam is incompatible with democracy. It depends on how one defines democracy. One could make an argument for Nazism and Communism being compatible with democracy on the basis that Hitler and Castro enjoyed majority support. If the test of compatibility with democracy is majority support within a nation, then the answer in respect of Islam may be affirmative.

What I do know is that Islam, in theory and in practice, has powerful elements which are consistently hostile to freedom of choice and personal liberty, especially for women. That is the challenge for all who cleave to the Muslim faith, and I pray that they will make the necessary changes.

Principal speakers in the debate:

For the Affirmative: Dr Daniel Pipes, Paul Sheehan, Tanveer Ahmed

For the Negative: Amina Rasul, Samina Yasmeen, Waleed Aly

The Debate was chaired by Dr Simon Longstaff. A full house of 1,200 persons attended. Speakers from the floor were each allowed a maximum of one minute. The motion was carried by 52% to 48%. SMH Reports of 16 April 2008 here and
10 April 2008 here

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Below are some extracts from Michael's most recent newsletter (PDF). The report is by Eddie Cross -- a longstanding white supporter of black rule in Zimbabwe and a former fierce opponent of the white Smith regime

We saw evidence of the cyclone all the way to Harare and then over the weekend we saw the Capital City go up in flames. The markets at Magaba, Mbare all destroyed and billions of dollars worth of goods taken or destroyed. My daughter witnessed a team on the street cutting a vendors hot dog stand loose and then loading it onto a truck - she remonstrated with them and they threatened to arrest her. Some Z$2 billion in cash stolen from vendors by the Police.

All over the City homes were destroyed, goods stolen or destroyed and people threatened with loaded weapons and live ammunition. They were also threatened with tear gas supplied by Israel that stuns its victims. Officers in charge of this mindless destruction said that they had orders to shoot anyone resisting. In one area I visited the majority of the squatters had voted Zanu PF in the recent election, believing that in doing so they were protecting themselves from eviction because the land they occupied was not theirs - they sat stunned by events surrounded by burnt out wrecks of their homes and crying children who had spent the night out in the cold.

The question is why are they doing this - punishment is one reason given by police to those they were hurting, punishment for voting MDC in the cities. But I think there is another reason and this is that Mugabe - now in the final stages of his rule, has decided - like Stalin in the 30's and Pol Pot in the 60's and the Afrikaner administration in South Africa, that it is time to move some people out of the cities and back to the rural areas. This is a mass eviction of unwanted urban poor being forced to go "back to their rural homes" and "grow food!"

In the cities they are a threat - restless, independent and proving a powerful support base for opposition politics. In the rural areas they can be controlled and perhaps forced to grow food where none is being grown at present. Will they get away with it - probably, just like Stalin and Pol Pot and the apartheid regime. But only for a while, eventually the tide will turn and when it does, those who were the oppressors will themselves become the victims of their own evil acts.

To back up this thesis that strange new Ministry called the Ministry of Rural Housing and Social Amenities with Munangagawa in charge has been given a massive budget from nowhere to operate with. This suggests that they really are trying to force a relocation of population. In the past 5 years, rural populations have been declining - the maths suggest by as much as 10 per cent per annum. This coupled with the impact of Aids has meant that these areas can no longer even feed themselves. Mugabe is trying to reverse this situation.

When you go to bed tonight - just think of those tens of thousands of poor, hungry, destitute people and their children who will sleep in the open in near zero temperatures, without hope or a future. Mugabe is goading the population to revolt - then he can declare a state of emergency and remove what is left of our civil liberties and rights.


Our collapse is self inflicted, its home grown, and until this sort of nonsense is addressed by the global and the African community, there is no hope for countries like Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sudan, Somalia and so on. We are our own worst enemies and we must fix what is wrong here at home in Africa, before we can make effective use of the generosity of the developed world and the new global village that offers such marvellous opportunities and freedom.

The question is how to effect such changes without running the risk of being accused of neo-colonialism? How to ensure that when leadership fails a country, the people can change them without violence and mayhem? We have tried here in Zimbabwe for the past 5 years - we have insisted on no violence, no guns, we have worked to secure a democratic, legal transfer of power to new, popular leadership and we have not succeeded - why? It has been simply because African leaders pay lip service to the fundamentals of the rule of law and democracy.

When it comes to the wholesale theft of national resources and the subversion of the rule of law and democracy, our leaders are in a league all by themselves. We have become adept at manipulating the media and foreign governments and the multinational agencies such as the World Bank and the UN. To this long list we perhaps should now add the G8 leadership and Bob Geldof. We allow African leaders to strut across the platforms of the world stage as if they were acting in the real interests of their people and not acting simply as self-serving tyrants.

Quite frankly until African leaders themselves put their own houses in order there should be no talk of assistance of any kind.It is ridiculous that Ethiopia with its rich agricultural resources has been supported by massive food aid for over 20 years. Just take a look at Nigeria - one of the oil giants of the world yet threatened with instability and rising poverty that belies its wealth and status.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Zimbabwe in 2004

From Eddie Cross, Bulawayo 23rd December 2004

In 1999 we all thought we were in for a short sharp fight. Confidence in our ability to defeat Zanu PF at the polls was high and we thought our case to do so was sound. We were prepared for victory and when we won the referendum in March 2000 we thought the stage was set for a victory in the June elections. It was not to be and I do not want to dwell on that here. Rather to look back on the past year - four years after those heady days when we planned with great confidence for a new MDC led government.

2004 has been tough, very tough, on all of us. The statistics tell a great deal but are not the whole picture. Our total economic output slipped for the 6th consecutive year and is now only 60 per cent of what it was in 1998. Exports fell to half of earlier heights, employment to the lowest level since 1960. Life expectancy collapsed to just 35 years - down a year for every year that Mugabe has been State President. The only thing that increased was human flight and the death rate, both of which are now at record levels and reducing the population of the country by hundreds of thousands every year.

In every sector we saw a further decline in economic activity. In agriculture the wet season was about normal - certainly unusually long, starting in October 2003 and ending in April 2004. But it did not help - every sector showed further declines in output. Tobacco slipped to half what we need to stay in the market, maize production was barely 600 000 tonnes and Mugabe lied about the crop size. All other sectors showed decline - even those dominated by small-scale growers in the Communal areas. As a consequence we now have to import food on a scale we have not seen for many decades and food prices have risen dramatically. With falling incomes and rapidly declining monetary values the ordinary Zimbabwean has been plunged into a crisis that is worse than at any time in our history.

In industry we have seen activity fall by 40 per cent in four years and it shows no sign of any slow down in the downwards spiral. Factory closures are a daily occurrence and the roads in our industrial sites no longer swarm with thousands of workers at 5 PM each day. With each company closure we have seen a hemorrhage of skills and experience that will be very difficult to replace. Four years ago we employed 300 000 workers in industry, generated 25 per cent of GDP and were a threat to the industry of our neighbors. Today we are just a shadow of what we were.

In the mining sector, 2004 saw some recovery - the Zimbabwean group that took over the assets of BHP in the platinum industry turned the venture round and made a profit and then sold out to Implats in South Africa. Anglo American stopped disinvesting and started to put money on the table - platinum, chrome and diamonds all benefited. The gold industry started to recover with new pricing policies and foreign mining giants said they were seriously looking at the Zimbabwe treasure trove of base minerals and precious metals. Then the dead hand of Zanu PF entered the fray and suddenly the whole scene has gone cold. Investment plans have been frozen and exploration and negotiation activity stopped.

In tourism we all felt that 2003 was the bottom of the roller coaster - in that year only 20 per cent of our normal flow of tourists visited the country. In fact tour operators tell me the fall in 2004 has been dramatic with many operators not handling a single foreign tourist in 12 months. Hotels have closed down and operators scaled back their operations - some back to a care and maintenance level. Visiting our Parks is something else - vast swathes of empty wild life reserve. Park lodges empty and staff idle. It's great for us Zimbabweans to have the place to ourselves but we cannot maintain these areas without a steady flow of tourists.

In the service sector it has been a torrid year. 40 per cent of all commercial banks have collapsed with combined losses of over Z$2 trillion (US$350 million). The railways now operate at such a low level that their gross revenue does not cover their salary bill each month. Our Post and Telecommunications sector has been on strike for 4 months and the only response by the authorities has been to fire the offending workers - in violation of our own labor laws. Increases in service costs from water and electricity to postage and telephone rates have soared to the point where many are simply unable to pay. Water quality in all the cities has deteriorated, as have all municipal services - despite huge increases in charges.

In education we now have a minority of girl children in school for the first time in 20 years. Attendance at school has fallen to about 75 per cent of all school age children at primary schools and when they do go, the standard of education is so poor in State schools that most will leave school neither functionally literate or numerate. Hospitals are simply mortuaries where people die and are then treated as so much garbage to be disposed of. Stories of bodies piled high in cold rooms abound. Even in the private sector we have had to fight for the continued existence of private schools and the maintenance of standards in private hospitals and clinics. Some of these battles were won this year - but at great cost.

In the political arena we have also slipped backwards. We have never been so isolated diplomatically since the end of sanctions in 1980. We remain fully excluded from all the multilateral organisations and the Commonwealth. We are an embarrassment to the AU and the SADC. We have hindered the progress of negotiations with the EU for southern African states. We have intensified the control of the media and all normal democratic activity. We continued to abuse human rights and freedoms on a scale not even seen in the bad old days of Ian Smith. We are in the process of closing down all the NGO's that have played such an important part in our lives in the past decade - keeping the flame of democracy and human and political rights alight.

And in the face of all this failure we are subjected to a circus called the Zanu PF Congress at the year-end where the whole farce of "everything is normal" and "we are on the road to recovery" is played out. The scenes of frivolity and jubilation, of drinking and dining will remain with us for a long time. These were the kleptocrats at play, living it up and celebrating their survival as a ruling elite despite chronic failure and disgrace. And they are quite confident that they will win the March 2005 parliamentary elections! It is an astonishing display of confidence in the Stalinist dictum "it is not who votes that counts, but he who counts the vote."

Is 2005 going to be any better - no, I think not and we must gear ourselves up to handle this situation. At least we will go into the elections - if and when they are held, with no illusions. I do not want to go through that again - it took me 6 months to pick myself off the floor after 2002. But of one thing I am certain, in the end right will win. History tells us that eventually every despotic regime comes to the end - it may be violent like Rumania, or simply a collapse at midnight like East Germany. But the Zanu PF led government is simply no longer sustainable and has a shrinking circle of friends to help it out when needed.

In 2004 we made huge strides in building understanding of the Zimbabwe crisis and its human and political origins. In Africa we can now confidently claim a majority of countries who no longer see Mugabe as he likes to display himself but simply as a liberation hero who has lost his way and should go. They have thrown everything they have at us and we are still standing - and remember that he who is left standing at the end is the winner! When we win, putting Zimbabwe back on its feet will take time but it will also be exciting and rewarding. Like white water rafting - trust your life jacket, not your ability to swim. Just make sure it is tied tight and relax and enjoy the ride.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The professional haters who constitute the membership of the anti-Bush, anti-Howard, anti-Blair cabal have been wriggling with delight at the release of a US Senate Intelligence Committee report which points to the influence of flawed intelligence in the decision-making process which led to Coalition military operations in Iraq (and the liberation of that unhappy nation).

The Committee found that the threat of weapons of mass destruction was overstated. Intelligence analysts who underestimated the military capacity of Saddam Hussein before the invasion of Kuwait and who underestimated the offensive capacity of Al-Qaeda were demonstrably unwilling to make the same mistake again. No-one contributed more greatly to the over-estimation of Saddam Hussein's weaponry than Saddam Hussein himself, by his refusal to be honest with the United Nations and by his refusal to he honest even with his own commanders. Posturing as the leader of the anti-West Islamic world, Saddam Hussein revelled in the reputation he gained by pretending to wield a much bigger stick than he in fact possessed.

In its coverage of the US Senate Report, the ABC's AM Program on Saturday 10 July 2004 quoted Jay Rockefeller:

"And we in Congress would not have authorised that war. We would not have authorised that war with 75 votes if we knew what we know now. . . . . Our credibility is diminished, our standing in the world has never been lower, we have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world and that will grow. As a direct consequence our nation is more vulnerable today then ever before."

Here is what West Virginian Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller said on 10 October 2002:

"Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq's enemies and his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East . . . . . .He could make those weapons available to many terrorist groups which have contact with his government, and those groups could bring those weapons into the U.S. and unleash a devastating attack against American citizens. . . . Some argue it would be totally irrational for Saddam Hussein to initiate an attack against the mainland United States, and they believe he would not do it. But if Saddam Hussein thought he could attack America through terrorist proxies and cover the trail back to Baghdad, he might think it not so irrational."

And Massachusetts Democrat Senator John F Kerry (now presidential candidate) said this on 23 January 2003:

"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new."

The hypocrisy of the US Democrats is mirrored by that of the Australian Labor Party. The extensive audience of 2UE and Network broadcaster John Laws CBE heard the clear statement of March 2003 (as I recall) by then Opposition Leader Simon Crean: "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction". Mr Crean had access to the same intelligence material which was available to the Prime Minister. John Howard and Simon Crean each then reached a reasonable conclusion based on what the international intelligence community knew at the time.

Note that the Senate Report found no evidence that the US Administration did anything to encourage inaccurate intelligence assessments. Military intelligence is an inexact science, as those of us who have been in the trade well know.

In the midst of its general glee at the Senate Committee's criticism of the CIA, international media organisations have given scant attention to an important aspect of the Report, which has been highlighted in an 11 July 2004 article by Thomas Catan and Mark Huband in the Financial Times, which receives an approving link from the Niger Post of 11 July 2004. Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe wrote on the same subject.

TheTaipei Times of 11 July 2004 presents the story neatly:


Sunday, Jul 11, 2004, Page 7

A Senate report criticizing false CIA claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction at the same time provides support for an assertion the White House repudiated: that Iraq sought to buy uranium in Africa. White House officials said last year it was a mistake for President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union message last year, to refer to British reports that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's government tried to buy uranium. The White House said the evidence for that claim was too shaky to have been included in such an important speech, and CIA Director George Tenet took the blame for failing to have the reference removed.

A report released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee offers new details backing the claim. French and British intelligence separately told the US about possible Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Niger, the report said. The report from France is significant not only because Paris opposed the Iraq war but also because Niger is a former French colony and French companies control uranium production there.

Joseph Wilson, a retired US diplomat the CIA sent to investigate the Niger story, also found evidence of Iraqi contacts with Nigerian officials, the report said. Wilson told the committee that Niger's former prime minister Ibrahim Mayaki reported meeting with Iraqi officials in 1999. Mayaki said a businessman helped set up the meeting, saying the Iraqis were interested in "expanding commercial relations" with Niger -- which Mayaki interpreted as an overture to buy uranium, Wilson said.

All of that information came to Washington long before an Italian journalist gave US officials copies of documents purporting to show an agreement from Niger to sell uranium to Baghdad. Those documents have been determined to be forgeries.

The issue is not whether Saddam Hussein succeeded in obtaining uranium from Niger. He tried. And we should be in no doubt that the dictator's malign intent to cause maximum damage to the United States and its allies was ended only by his fall. All Australians should be proud of Australia's contribution to that fall. And we should all be proud of the leadership displayed in this difficult time by our Prime Minister, John Howard.

In his 11 July 2004 article in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Jack Kelly wrote:

"Iraq got a bunch of uranium from somewhere. In another story largely ignored by major media, The Associated Press reported last week that "in a secret operation, the United States last month removed from Iraq nearly two tons of uranium and hundreds of highly radioactive items that could have been used in a so-called dirty bomb."

On July 6 Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham disclosed the operation, which was completed June 23. He described it as a "major achievement" in efforts to "keep potentially dangerous nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists."

The uranium discovered was "low enrichment" (less than 20 percent U-235 isotope) and hence unsuitable for making atomic bombs. For that, centrifuges are necessary. Khidir Hamza, who headed Iraq's nuclear program prior to his defection in 1994, said Iraq had obtained centrifuges from German sources. An attempt to smuggle in centrifuge components in 2002 was thwarted, several sources said.

Also ignored by the major media were reports that components of Iraqi missile systems -- some of them radioactive -- have been turning up in European scrap metal yards, and the discovery in Iraq late in June by Polish troops of "16 or 17" artillery shells that tested positive for the nerve agent sarin. Terrorists were trying to buy the shells for $5,000 each, Polish officials said.

Opposition Leader Latham has committed Australia to assisting Iraq by providing "non-combatant" assistance while persisting with his undertaking to remove all Australian military personnel from the theatre by Christmas 2004. Australian military personnel are trained to live and work in a dangerous environment, and the absence of casualties among Australians in Iraq demonstrates that the standard of such training is excellent. For the sake of pursing its anti-Howard, anti-Bush, anti-Blair agenda the Labor Party would repatriate all those who are trained to deal with a hostile environment and replace them with civilians who would depend for their security on the military forces of other nations. To the Opposition Leader and his cronies, Australian civilians are dispensable.

In an attempt to mollify our US Allies, Opposition Latham has brought back to the Front Bench as Defence Spokesman the man he displaced from the Opposition Leadership, Kim Beazley. Notorious for committing Australia to build political rather than military submarines, Kim Beazley's defence credentials are shaky. Following is another example of why Beazley has little to offer.

Beazley Blunder of the Week (4/11/01 Senator the Hon Richard Alston MP)

After promising for two weeks that all post offices around Australia would get broadband internet access, Labor's dead-of-night admission that it was all a 'mistake' shows Mr Beazley cannot be trusted to keep his election promises. This embarrassing backflip is designed to save the hide of Simon Crean who falsely claimed on Thursday night that Labor had never promised to provide broadband internet services 'universally' in post offices, when Labor's own policies promised exactly that.

However, Labor's admission of 'a mistake' does absolutely nothing to overcome the $294 million costings black hole in Labor's postal policy.

The simple truth is Labor cannot be trusted with the defence of Australia and the management of our relationships with our allies.

Written in a private capacity as a personal opinion, not representing any organisation

Michael Darby
PO Box 401
Manly 1655
Phone 0413 348 843

Friday, April 23, 2004
ANZAC DAY 25 April 2004

The 25th of April is Australia's de facto national day -- celebrating Australia's young men who died first at Gallipoli in the First World War and in many wars since. Here is a selection of poems worth reading on a special day when we honour the heroism and sacrifice of those who served.


P.J. Hartigan (John O'Brien)

Among the many poems of Great War tragedy, "Ownerless" holds a special place.

He comes when the gullies are wrapped in the gloaming
And limelights are trained on the tops of the gums,
To stand at the sliprails, awaiting the homing
Of one who marched off to the beat of the drums.
So handsome he looked in the puttees and khaki,
Light-hearted he went like a youngster to play;
But why comes he never to speak to his Darkie,
Around at the rails at the close of the day?
And why have the neighbours foregathered so gently,
Their horses a-doze at the fence in a row?
And what are they talking of, softly, intently?
And why are the women-folk lingering so?
One hand, soft and small, that so often caressed him,
Was trembling just now as it fondled his head;
But what was that trickling warm drop that distressed him?
And what were those heart-broken words that she said?
Ne'er brighter the paddocks that bushmen remember
The green and the gold and the pink have displayed,
When Spring weaves a wreath for the brows of September,
Enrobed like a queen, and a-blush like a maid.
The gums are a-shoob and the wattles a-cluster,
The cattle are roaming the ranges astray;
But why are they late with the hunt and the muster?
And why is the black horse unsaddled to-day?
Hard by at the station the training commences,
In circles they're schooling the hacks for the shows;
The high-mettled hunters are sent at the fences,
And satins and dapples the brushes disclose.
Sound-winded and fit and quite ready is Darkie,
Impatient to strip for the sprint and the flight;
But what can be keeping the rider in khaki?
And why does the silence hang heavy tonight?
Ah, surely he'll come, when the waiting is ended,
To fly the stiff fences and take him in hand,
Blue-ribboned once more, and three-quarters extended,
Hard-held for the cheers from the fence and the stand.
Still there on the cross-beam the saddle hangs idle,
The cobweb around the loose stirrup is spun;
The rust's on the spurs, and the dust on the bridle,
And gathering mould on the badges he won.
We'll take the old horse to the paddocks tomorrow,
Where grasses are waving breast-high on the plain;
And there with the clean-skins we'll turn him in sorrow
And muster him never, ah, never, again.
The bush bird will sing when the shadows are creeping
A sweet plaintive note, soft and clear as a bell's -
Oh, would it might ring where the bush boy is sleeping,
And colour his dreams by the far Dardanelles.

The Anzac

Will H Ogilvie

I am grateful to Queensland Poet Liz Ward (q.v.) for drawing this powerful poem to my notice. In the 1952 edition of the ANZAC Day Magazine, this poem was published "by special permission of the Proprietors of Punch" with the title "The Bravest Thing God Ever Made (A British Officer's Opinion)". The poem inspired the song "The Bravest Things God Ever Made" which appears on the CD "Tribute to the Anzacs", produced by Peter Kukura.

The skies that arched his land were blue,
His bush-born winds were warm and sweet,
And yet from earliest hours he knew
The tides of victory and defeat;
From fierce floods thundering at his birth,
From red droughts ravening while he played;
He learned to fear no foes on earth
-"The bravest thing God ever made!"
The bugles of the Motherland
Rang ceaselessly across the sea,
To call him and his lean brown band
To shape Imperial destiny;
He went, by youth's grave purpose willed,
The goal unknown, the cost unweighed,
The promise of his blood fulfilled-
"The bravest thing God ever made!"
We know - it is our deathless pride! --
The splendour of his first fierce blow;
How, reckless, glorious, undenied,
He stormed those steel-lined cliffs we know!
And none who saw him scale the height
Behind his reeking bayonet blade
Would rob him of his title right --
"The bravest thing God ever made!"
Bravest, where half a world of men
Are brave beyond all earth's rewards,
So stoutly none shall charge again
Till the last breaking of the swords;
Wounded or hale, won home from war,
Or yonder by the Lone Pine laid,
Give him his due for evermore -
"The bravest thing God ever made!"


Will H Ogilvie, 1915

For horse-lovers, this is an emotional poem, which adds to the knowledge of those who knew that thousands of Australian horses ("Walers") served the Empire in the Great War, but were unaware of the Canadian equine contribution.

With arrows on their quarters and with numbers on their hoofs,
With the trampling sound of twenty that re-echoes in the roofs,
Low of crest and dull of coat, wan and wild of eye,
Through our English village the Canadians go by.
Shying at a passing cart, swerving from a car,
Tossing up an anxious head to flaunt a snowy star,
Racking at a Yankee gait, reaching at the rein,
Twenty raw Canadians are tasting life again!
Hollow-necked and hollow-flanked, lean of rib and hip,
Strained and sick and weary with the wallow of the ship,
Glad to smell the turf again, hear the robin's call,
Tread again the country road they lost at Montreal!
Fate may bring the dule and woe; better steeds than they
Sleep beside the English guns a hundred leagues away;
But till war hath need of them, lightly lie their reins,
Softly fall the feet of them along the English lanes.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

Wilfrid Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

The Farmer Remembers The Somme

Vance Palmer

Will they never fade or pass!
The mud, and the misty figures endlessly coming
In file through the foul morass,
And the grey flood-water ripping the reeds and grass,
And the steel wings drumming.
The hills are bright in the sun:
There's nothing changed or marred in the well-known places;
When work for the day is done
There's talk, and quiet laughter, and gleams of fun
On the old folks' faces.
I have returned to these:
The farm, and the kindly Bush, and the young calves lowing;
But all that my mind sees
Is a quaking bog in a mist - stark, snapped trees,
And the dark Somme flowing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

On 9th December, Michael Darby posted the following:

Number three in the Ukqwitt Register is animal liberationist Ralph Ukqwitt Hahnheuser, the saboteur and enemy of Australian rural industry, who in mid-November 2003 conducted a terrorist raid against the Kobo Feedlot in Portland, Victoria, where he contaminated sheep feed by the addition of shredded ham. That action delayed the shipment by three weeks. Let us hope that the legal system finds a way for Ralph Ukqwitt Hahnheuser to pay all the costs involved.

Mr Hahnheuser evidently took exception to the post and has threatened to sue Michael Darby over it. Below is Michael's reply:

Dear Mr Hahnheuser

I have not yet seen your email because I have been travelling, but the gist of it has been communicated to me by telephone.

As a matter of policy the Darby Report is willing to publish correspondence from individuals whose opinions differ from the views expressed in Darby Report articles, so in a spirit of fairness I intend to publish your correspondence.

I understand that you are threatening to commence defamation proceedings against me and against Dr. J.J. Ray unless material which you describe as defamatory is removed from the internet.

There is a well-accepted procedure in circumstances where an individual asserts that he or she has been defamed. Accordingly, I recommend that you take this action:

Write to me quoting the statement which you assert is defamatory.

Specify the defamatory imputation which you assert may be drawn from the statement.

Show how the statement is other than fair comment on the activities of an individual who seeks notoriety.

Show how the statement is false or misleading.

Show how you have been harmed by the statement.

I invite you also to provide evidence of your expressed opposition to acts committed by animal liberationists which have been violent, destructive of private property, harmful to individuals, reckless or irresponsible, so that I may have an opportunity of making a reassessment of your character for the benefit of Darby Report readers.

I take this opporunity of wishing you happiness at Christmas, and I encourage you to respect the rights of others in the New Year.

Yours sincerely

Michael Darby

Tuesday, November 11, 2003
The latest “Darby Report” is now up -- here -- with posts on many things as follows:

Premier Carr’s Disgrace
We Want Trade Not Aid – President of Uganda
Eddie Cross on Zimbabwe – The Transition
Cathy Buckle on Zimbabwe
Beware “Bank” Scams
Remembrance Day 11 November
Greenpeace at it again
Still a Very Stupid Idea – The Scully-Barr Spit Bridge Plan
Prof David Flint on Malcolm Turnbull
The Ukqwitt Register
Radiation Scam Revealed
Tail Docking

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Michael Darby is back online here with a big range of posts. His article on De Soto and what makes capitalism work is particularly interesting but he also points to the politicization of Oxfam (supposedly a charity) etc. The French get a rocket too. And there is the usual sad news about Zimbabwe.

Saturday, September 13, 2003
Authoritarianism from Keating

(Paul Keating is the most recent Leftist Prime Minister of Australia)

By Hal G.P. Colebatch

“The Australian” of 3 September carried a report of the launching of Stuart McIntyre's book “The History Wars”, by former Prime Minister Paul Keating. It was further reported in the Age the following day that in the course of his remarks at this ceremony Mr Keating stated: "Many people are dispirited by this period and they think that somehow the Andrew Bolts and the Paddy McGuinesses and the Frank Devines, all these people, have somehow got the upper hand. But they will simply be a smudge in history."

There are some things that need to be said about this in the utmost seriousness, if it had been correctly reprinted: for a politician to attack other politicians in such terms may fairly be called grossly unpleasant and even a long-term threat to democracy, but it is still something of a sparring between equals. Writers and academics who attack other writers and academics in such terms may also be unpleasant, but they are still, in a sense, picking on someone their own size. However, I believe that for an ex-Prime Minister to use such a forum to attack named writers in such venomous, deliberately de-humanising, language is an exercise in moral bullying with a totalitarian reek about it (This is setting aside the personal indignity of the matter, though I certainly cannot imagine Sir Robert Menzies or John Curtin so lowering themselves).

Many Australians are familiar with George Orwell's comments on the relationship between Politics and Language, with John Wesley Young's work “Totalitarian Language - Orwell's Newspeak and its Nazi and Communist Antecedents” (University of Virginia Press, 1991), and with the dehumanising language used by the Nazis to describe the Jews, and by Communists such as Lenin, Vishinsky and Zdhanov to describe Kulaks and other class-enemies, as a prelude to their extermination and as a part of the process of making that extermination politically acceptable.

I believe that for a former Australian Prime Minister to use such language about named writers in a public forum is utterly reprehensible and a betrayal of our democratic and civil polity. I also believe that if it is quietly accepted and in effect condoned this will be a matter of even greater seriousness.

Friday, September 12, 2003
This article implies but does not clearly state that the perpetrators are Muslim men...

Sexism in the Cités: Life in the immigrant ghettos of France can be violent and harsh for young Muslim women

“An unnamed 15-year-old girl is assaulted by 18 boys, most of them not much older than she is. Sonia, also 15, is raped by seven of her supposed friends in the basement of her apartment building. Sheherezade, 11, is beaten and raped repeatedly over the course of a year by 12 different boys.

GRIM AS SUCH crimes may be, they¹re becoming commonplace in the police ledgers of Paris, Lyon or Toulouse. The scene is almost always the same: the housing projects called cites on the outskirts of France¹s major cities. Built by socially progressive governments in the 1960s, they¹ve since been taken over by a generation of mostly Arab immigrants; impoverished, cut off from their native lands and culture, ghettoized. Here, young men try to rule their families and neighbors under a macho code drawn partly from Muslim tradition, partly from the violence and porn in the media. Women submit to men, they say. Good girls, good sisters, cover themselves and stay home. Otherwise they are putes, whores, who can be used and abused even if they say no.

Such stories, then, are not just about urban crime and rough neighborhoods. They reflect a core issue of Muslim integration in Europe.........

The problem is that to help the women of the cites in the long run, you have to help the men – not only to find jobs and education, but to learn to live in Western societies. And precious little has been done about that.”

More here

Thursday, September 11, 2003
Morale Booster

From Erich Kern in the United States

I sat in my seat of the Boeing 767 waiting for everyone to hurry and stow their carry-ons and grab a seat so we could start what I was sure to be a long, uneventful flight home. With the huge capacity and slow moving people taking their time to stuff luggage far too big for the overhead and never paying much attention to holding up the growing line behind them, I simply shook my head knowing that this flight was not starting out very well.

I was anxious to get home to see my loved ones so I was focused on "my" issues and just felt like standing up and yelling for some of these clowns to get their act together. I knew I couldn't say a word so I just thumbed thru the "Sky Mall" magazine from the seat pocket in front of me. You know it's really getting rough when you resort to the over priced, useless sky mall crap to break the monotony. With everyone finally seated, we just sat there with the cabin door open and no one in any hurry to get us going although we were well past the scheduled take off time. No wonder the airline industry is in trouble I told myself. Just then, the attendant came on the intercom to inform us all that we were being delayed. The entire plane let out a collective groan.

She resumed speaking to say "We are holding the aircraft for some very special people who are on their way to the plane and the delay shouldn't be more than 5 minutes. The word came after waiting six times as long as we were promised that "I" was finally going to be on my way home. Why the hoopla over "these" folks? I was expecting some celebrity or sport figure to be the reason for the hold up.........Just get their butts in a seat and lets hit the gas I thought.

The attendant came back on the speaker to announce in a loud and excited voice that we were being joined by several U. S. Marines returning home from Iraq!!! Just as they walked on board, the entire plane erupted into applause. The men were a bit taken by surprise by the 340 people cheering for them as they searched for their seats. They were having their hands shook and touched by almost everyone who was within an arm's distance of them as they passed down the aisle. One elderly woman kissed the hand of one of the Marines as he passed by her. The applause, whistles and cheering didn't stop for a long time. When we were finally airborne, "I" was not the only civilian checking his conscience as to the delays in "me" getting home, finding my easy chair, a cold beverage and the remote in my hand.

These men had done for all of us and I had been complaining silently about "me" and "my" issues. I took for granted the everyday freedoms I enjoy and the conveniences of the American way of life I took for granted others paid the price for my ability to moan and complain about a few minutes delay to "me" those Heroes going home to their loved ones. I attempted to get my selfish outlook back in order and minutes before we landed I suggested to the attendant that she announce over the speaker a request for everyone to remain in their seats until our hero's were allowed to gather their things and be first off the plane. The cheers and applause continued until the last Marine stepped off and we all rose to go about our too often taken for granted everyday chores......... I felt proud of them. I felt it an honor and a privilege to be among the first to welcome them home and say Thank You for a job well done.

I vowed that I will never forget that flight nor the lesson learned. I can't say it enough, THANK YOU to those Veterans and active servicemen and women who may read this and a prayer for those who cannot because they are no longer with us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

News item:

Death of Prof. Edward Teller

Edward Teller, a pioneer in molecular physics dubbed the "father of the H-bomb" for his role in the early development of nuclear weapons, died on Tuesday, a Stanford University spokeswoman said. Elaine Ray, a spokeswoman for the Stanford University news service, said Teller had suffered a stroke earlier this week and died at his home on the university campus on Tuesday.

A naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hungary, Teller was a key member of a group of top scientists who fled Hitler's Germany and ended up working on the Manhattan Project, the secret program that developed the atomic bomb. After the war, Teller pressed the case for a continued strong national defense, persuading President Harry Truman of the need for the far more powerful hydrogen bomb.

The United States detonated the first H-bomb on the Pacific atoll of Eniwetok in November 1952. It was 2,500 times more powerful than the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which prompted Japan's surrender and brought World War II to a close. "It wasn't a choice. Nuclear energy existed," Teller told a newspaper interviewer shortly before his 80th birthday. "We would have found it no matter what we did. It's sheer arrogance to say we created the bomb."

At the time of his death, Teller, 95, was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, specializing in defense and energy policy, according to the posting on its Web site (www-hoover.standord.edu) on Wednesday. He was also a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Nuclear Society and a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Sciences. Born in Budapest in 1908, Teller completed his Ph.D. in physics under Werner Heisenberg in 1930 at the University of Leipzig and did post-graduate work in Copenhagen with pioneering Danish nuclear physicist Neils Bohr.

COLD WARRIOR Teller was director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory from 1958 to 1960 and professor of physics at the University of California from that time until his retirement in 1975, according to the institute's web posting. Teller's numerous published works included "Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics" (written with Judith Shoolery, 2001), "Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics" (1991) and "Energy from Heaven and Earth" (1979).

The H-bomb, never used in warfare, was the linchpin of the "MAD" (mutually assured destruction) defense doctrine that kept the United States and Soviet Union at bay during the Cold War . Teller said he regretted Truman's decision to drop the A-bomb on Japanese cities, saying he felt the weapon should have been tried first in a demonstration in hopes Japan's leaders would have been impressed enough to end the war. Considered too hawkish by many of his colleagues, Teller argued that the absence of defense can bring disastrous results, and he cited Hitler's takeover of Hungary as evidence.

Some scientists never forgave Teller for his role in discrediting J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of scientists who gathered at Los Alamos, New Mexico, to develop the atomic bomb. When Oppenheimer argued against quick development of the H-bomb, Teller and other critics accused him of disloyalty and persuaded the government to lift his security clearance. Teller came under fire again in the 1980s when he helped convince President Ronald Reagan the United States should spend billions of dollars on a space-based defense umbrella that came to be know as Star Wars ." Critics said the system, based partly on laser-equipped satellites designed to shoot down enemy missiles, was unfeasible and too expensive. Teller won the day, but the ambitious defense umbrella remains a work in progress.

There is a good deal of authority for the proposition that President Reagan’s willingness to invest in “Star Wars” convinced Mikhail Gorbachev that the Soviet Union could never defeat the United States of America, thus launching the process which saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismemberment of the Soviet and Jugoslav Communist empires.

President George Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Edward Teller on 23 July 2003 at the White House, with Teller’s daughter Wendy accepting the medal on behalf of her father. The President said: "Edward Teller helped to shape the course of human history. . .

"He has been a strong advocate for national defense and the cause of human freedom. The United States honors him for his excellence in science and in education, and his unwavering commitment to the nation."

The Reuters reporter (above) seems to sympathise with Dr Teller’s opponents, whether from ignorance or from wistful recollection of Sovietism. The people of Hungary are in no doubt about the giant contribution made by the famous son of Hungary to the independence of his homeland and to world peace generally.

Following is a very significant article from the Fall 2000 Hoover Institution Newsletter, describing how Edward Teller was the first person to receive the prestigious Corvin Medal since 1930.

Edward Teller Awarded Hungary’s Corvin Medal For Achievement In Arts And Sciences

The Hoover Institution’s Edward Teller, the world-famous physicist best known for his work in atomic and nuclear physics, was honored in August with the Hungarian Corvin Medal, bestowed by the Hungarian government for exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences.

The award was presented in a private ceremony at Teller’s home at Stanford University. Delegates representing Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and the Hungarian consulates in San Mateo and Los Angeles read the proclamation in Hungarian. Teller, who was born in Budapest in 1908 and is a Hoover Institution senior research fellow, responded in his native language.

In the ceremony’s opening remarks, given in both languages, the diplomats explained that Prime Minister Orban revived the Corvin Medal this year. It was last awarded in 1930.

Maria Schmidt, of the Hungarian delegation, said that the prime minister considers Teller’s contributions toward ending the cold war to be the primary force behind the fact that Hungary is again a free nation.

The presentation honored Teller’s work for having "helped end the cold war without bloodshed." Teller himself, who has received a multitude of honors from around the world, said that this one accomplishment is what he believes to be his greatest achievement.

The Corvin Medal includes the right to bestow a three-year scholarship or grant of approximately $72,000 to the student or scientist of Teller’s choice.

Only 12 living people can hold the Corvin Medal. On Teller’s death, the next recipient’s name will be engraved below his on the back of the medal. When the space for names has been filled, the medal will be retired to the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest.

Teller served as director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) from 1958 to 1960 and holds the title of LLNL director emeritus.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Wednesday 23 July 2003 will be remembered as a black day for democracy in New South Wales. On that day the NSW Labor Government spat in the faces of the citizens of Warringah by overthrowing the Council which had been democratically elected by the local population. On that day the State Government punished the hard-working, community minded, public spirited and demonstrably humanitarian majority elected Councillors, and rewarded a small group of unelected vociferous zealots whose only claim to fame is their expertise in generating complaints.

Media representatives have generally been happy to parrot the words of the Minister for Local Government, who in turn has parroted the text of a flawed report which in turn has parroted the tendentious and misleading allegations of the bunch of agitators whose aspirations for local government office were rejected by the electorate.

Why do media representatives believe what they receive in press handouts from the Labor Government. The slightest amount of independent research would quickly reveal that the Labor case against the Warringah Council - constructed in concert with the worst elements of the Greens and with the State's least meritorious independent politician - is based not on fact but only on the loud repetition of false assertions.

For facts on Warringah Council, please read my two submissions to the Inquiry.

1. www.warringah1.da.ru, and
2. www.warringah2.da.ru

Posted by Michael Darby
2012 hrs 23 July 2003

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Links will progressively be added to future Darby Reports and to past Darby Reports.

7 July 2003 Darby Report 278 Farewell to Hon W.C. "Bill" Wentworth

5 June 2003 Darby Report 277 Maiden Speech by Hon David Clarke MLC

26 May 2003 Darby Report 276 Gina Rinehart vindicated

Grateful thanks to Dr. John J. Ray. Please visit his blog often:
Dissecting Leftism http://dissectleft.blogspot.com/

Posted by Michael Darby

Friday, June 20, 2003

I started this blog in order to give a wider audience to the large amount of material that Michael Darby puts into his regular newsletters. Michael has now however largely given up on the Newletter format for drawing people’s attention to ideas that he considers important and has started posting on the web all the stuff that used to go into his newsletters (e.g. here and here).
There is therefore now no real further need for this blog.

I will alert readers to his future postings on the net via my blog -- Dissecting Leftism

As a final offering here, however, I reproduce below an interesting posting from one of Michael’s earlier newsletters.

John Ray


In the 1970s a small number of thinking reformist Australians began campaigning for proportionate taxation, otherwise known as Flat Tax. NSW grazier and former stockbroker Richard Tanner has been the most persistent Flat Tax campaigner. Others who deserve recognition include Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Raymond Lord and the late Alan Robson. Flat tax advocates will be encouraged by the following article:


Russia switched to a 13 percent flat tax and tax revenues increased.

By Deroy Murdock

(From DALLAS MORNING NEWS, March 4, 2002)

This year Americans will pay accountants and attorneys $140 billion to do their taxes and help them navigate the 46,000-page U.S. Tax Code. Too bad, observers say, this isn't Russia.
Since January 1, 2001, Russians have enjoyed a 13 percent flat tax.

§ Even the old Russian system was simpler than ours, with three tax rates - 12, 20 and 30 percent.

§ The U.S. has six -- 6, 10, 15, 27, 30, 35 and 38.6 percent, the last of which takes hold at $307,500 for married couples filing jointly. The majority of Russian taxpayers don't need to file forms. The 13 percent rate has exceeded expectations in terms of revenue, as real ruble revenue increased 28 percent

§ Three years ago, tax revenue equalled 9 to 10 percent of Russian gross domestic product.. By last November that had grown to 16 percent as result following the Laffer Curve: lower marginal tax rates produce higher revenues.

§ The new system has also greatly reduced the underground economy, where people were paid in goods rather than cash to facilitate tax evasion.

In other pro-market moves, President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 24 percent. The Kremlin may also offer Russians privately invested social security accounts, much as President Bush wants for Americans.

As one observer has noted, V.I. Lenin, analyzing all this from his dacha in hell, must be stroking his beard in utter bewilderment.


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Thursday, June 19, 2003


By Bruce S. Thornton, Professor of Classics at Cal State, Fresno.

From: FrontPageMagazine.com March 8, 2002

NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST THOMAS FRIEDMAN must be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome after his six-week sojourn in the Middle East. His recent column calling for Bush and Egyptian president Mubarak to "tear down the wall" dividing the West and Islam tries to argue that both sides are equally responsible for the barriers to coexistence, barriers whose real foundation is the unwillingness or inability of Islamic civilization to reconcile itself with modernity.

A false analogy is a sure sign of an incoherent argument, and Friedman's analogy with the Berlin wall is absurdly off the mark. The Soviets dropped the Iron Curtain to entrap a people whose cultural and political and religious roots historically lay in the free West, which is why the wall had to be erected: to prevent by force these people from returning to their roots. When the wall disappeared those oppressed people were then free to return to their true cultural and political identities. So of course they were "receptive to American ideals and perceptions" -- these were the product of a Western civilization common as well to Poles and Hungarians and East Germans.

In the Middle East, on the other hand, the barrier has not been imposed from without. Rather, it is part and parcel of the Islamic civilization that the majority of Muslims willingly endorse and believe to be superior to any other. The wall is there because they want it to be, because it is an expression of their spiritual identities and world-view, a world-view threatened by a secular Western civilization whose attractions and power they simultaneously loathe and desire. In other words, this "wall" was built by history and culture, and its maintenance is the work of Islam itself. Perhaps some of the elites, familiar with the West through travel and education, are receptive to American culture, but they are a distinct minority. For the majority, the "wall" is an organic, non-negotiable part of what they are.

Friedman, though, claims that the West helped build that fourteen-centuries-old barrier. How? Well, we've been "pathetic at telling" Muslims "who we are." This is astonishing, and reminds me of those saps who think teenage girls get pregnant because they don't know how conception works. Islam knows exactly who we are--that's why they don't like us. We are secular, materialist, sex-egalitarian, democratic, and free--precisely the qualities that threaten Islam and the rule of their elites.

Of course the Islamic regimes manipulate the rhetoric of freedom and human rights and democracy, because they have to in order to deal with a militarily and economically more powerful West, and these all comprise the West's currency of ideas. But where is the concrete evidence in the Middle East of these ideals existing as more than mere window-dressing or the privileges of an elite? The state-sponsored media that repeat anti-Semitic drivel and outright lies? Does Friedman really think that merely hectoring the Arabs more about human rights would make them see the light?

So too with Friedman's assertion that we have been remiss in not explaining to the Arab world our good deeds on their behalf, like saving the Bosnian Muslims or rescuing Kuwait. Again, the Arabs know what we did. They just don't give a damn. In fact, evidence suggests that they view our interventions, as well as our billions in annual foreign aid, as signs of weakness rather than strength, as indications that we can be played for suckers. How else will Friedman explain Kuwait's monstrous ingratitude, the same nation we kept from being violently transformed into a satrapy of Iraq? Have the Kuwaitis already forgotten the rape and plunder and murder of their citizens a mere ten years ago?

The worst illusion Friedman endorses, though, is the popular idea that the whole Israeli-Palestinian problem will magically go away if Israel dismantles the settlements and retreats to the pre-1967 borders. What concrete evidence exists that this is so, that an independent Palestinian state would be content to coexist with Israel? If that were the case, Arafat would've accepted Clinton's peace plan, which gave the Palestinians 95% of what they claim they want.

It's amazing how blithely some Americans and Europeans want Israel to wager its citizens' lives and its very existence on this flimsy promise of peaceful coexistence and "normalization" on the part of nations that have four times invaded its borders. Imagine a Palestinian state a mere nine miles from the Mediterranean, with an army equipped with Iranian-supplied missiles that could reach Tel Aviv. Are we to believe that the Arabs' decades-long rants about "driving Israel into the sea" were just rhetoric? That the hatred of Israel daily fed to their peoples, an anti-Semitism of an intensity that would have made Goebbels blush, will just disappear because the Palestinians--a people to whom the Arabs have shown a marked indifference apart from their use as a stick to beat Israel--have a homeland? Israel would be insane to take that bet.

Some Westerners, schooled in cultural relativism and embracing the contradictory illusion that everybody is "just like us," just don't get it. They don't want to accept that some cultures, whatever their brilliance in some areas, in others are dysfunctional. For all his knowledge of the Middle Eastern twigs and leaves, it is that forest of irreconcilable cultural difference between Islam and the West that Friedman can't see.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2003



G'day Michael,
Just my thoughts on taxation. The only justification for government is that there are some things people want done and they can't think of a better way to get them done. i.e. police, defence etc. The only justification for taxation is to fund government and nothing else.

These days taxes are seen as part of social policy - " tax the rich for a fairer society", that sort of rubbish. . I have yet to see anyone come up with a better way to raise government revenue than some type of "Flat Tax", perhaps in a form of a Withholding Tax. But please, don't call it a Flat Tax. That just encourages critics to compare it with "Flat Earth". Call it what it really is - a Single Rate Tax. A much better name.

P.S. Are you the same chap who had a rag called Free Market a looong time ago?

Thanks for your constructive thoughts. Most thinking people would agree with your statement that the only justification for taxation is to fund government and nothing else. Some would take issue with your justification for government. Many believe that the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect the rights of individuals (an activity entirely beyond the scope of many governments).

Thank you for remembering Free Market magazine. In more than two decades since those days, the term "Free Market" has become acceptable and even fashionable. Victory has been achieved in some of the campaigns initiated by Free Market Magazine, for example against government ownership of airlines, telephone companies, banks and insurance companies. Other battles are still in progress.

I take your point about the importance of terminology. "Single rate tax" or "proportionate tax" are terms more appealing than "Flat Tax". Perhaps Australians are conditioned to dislike flat things, especially "earth", "chests" and "ulence".
Please keep in touch.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2003


Excerpt on class actions from “The Litigation Explosion” by Walter Olson

The brief Associated Press item seemed like just another routine business-litigation story. It reported that the management of CBS, while admitting no wrongdoing, had agreed to pay $ 6 million to settle a claim by a disgruntled stockholder named Roger Minkoff, a resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Minkoff had sued the giant broadcaster, charging that its management had harmed stockholders' interests by repelling a 1985 takeover bid from the cable magnate Ted Turner and by paying too much for some of the magazine operations of the Ziff-Davis group in the same year.

Routine, yes, but just below the surface of the story were some odd angles. In the first place, rank-and-file CBS stockholders wouldn't be getting any checks in the mail; the bulk of the settlement, $ 4.5 million, was going into the CBS corporate treasury rather than, as one might expect, coming out of it. (In fact, the settlement was being paid by an insurance policy, not by the corporation itself.) The next surprise was that the aggrieved shareholder was not, as one might expect, an investor with enough of his own money in CBS stock to make such a fight worth pursuing. Minkoff actually owned a mere 15 shares, hardly enough to pay the postage in a lawsuit like this. As recompense for having gone to the trouble of suing, he was to receive $ 15,000 from the settlement, not bad for a holder of 15 shares (valued at $ 184 each) but only a sliver of the $ 6 million that was changing hands.

What happened to the other $ 1.5 million? Why, that went to Minkoff's lawyer, Richard Greenfield of Haverford, Pennsylvania, as legal fees per the terms of the settlement. And that explained everything. Greenfield is very, very well known in America's boardrooms. His firm has turned up as attorney of record in scores of other suits against American corporations whose common feature was that the legal fees billed vastly exceeded the sums recovered for the named clients.
* * *
For a long time people tended to see lawsuits as private quarrels between private parties for private gain. To the extent that the wider public had an interest in them, it was mostly in laying them to rest by clarifying responsibilities, so that the disturbance of the peace might end and life get back to normal.

This point of view was not very conductive to the emergence of an industry devoted to stirring up lawsuits for profit. But a new and much more suitable ideology now arose. Lawsuits (it now began to be urged) should be seen not just as ways to clarify the bounds between two private rights that might have come into conflict, but as campaigns to liberate people whose rights had been insolently trod on. In fact, even more important than to liberate existing victims was to deter future treadings-on of rights. The enforcing of good conduct through fear of being caught and punished was an acknowledged aim of the publicly enforced criminal law. Why not the privately enforced civil law as well?

You might call it the invisible-fist theory. In Adam Smith's famous account, the butcher and baker are led in their self-seeking as if by an invisible hand to further the general welfare: Private striving leads to public benefit. The bold new twist was the idea that private quarrels also lead to public benefit; the more fights you get into, the better a place you make the world for everyone else.

All this provided a sorely needed moral basis for the sue-for-profit industry, a basis that was to prove amazingly powerful in overcoming all sorts of nagging misgivings and lingering doubts legal entrepreneurs might feel about intensifying their efforts. If to litigate was to do the world a favor, then late-night lawyering ads were not at all in the same league as crass come-ons for vocational schools or wrinkle creams, but were more like public service announcements that broadcasters should probably be running for free. Direct solicitation? An even more commendable outreach program, providing door-to-door service.

Just the same, the demand for litigation services still fell a long way short of what farsighted promoters knew it could be. No matter how well the persuasive apparatus might be honed, most persons with gripes still declined to fight, for the same varied reasons that people decline to fight with their fists: scruples, continuing relations with the designated adversary, disdain for the sport itself, or lack of stomach for its grueling ordeal. If the cannon fodder was not volunteering in the desired numbers, one option was to offer sign-up pay.

The contingency fee had already promised to take care of the client's major financial risk here, by assuring him that the biggest expense of a lawsuit, the lawyer's time, was nothing he had to worry about paying out of pocket. ("No fee unless successful.") Officially, clients are still responsible for the other miscellaneous expenses of a losing lawsuit. But all sides understand that in many of today's suits the lawyer is covertly gambling the expenses, as he is openly gambling the fee.

The next logical step is to pay the client cash on the barrel to sue or keep a suit going. Like so many promising promotional strategies in the litigation business, this one has been illegal under English common law: Furnishing money in exchange for all or part of someone's right to sue was a criminal offense called "champerty." The law sometimes permitted outsiders to buy and enforce an obligation where the obligated party had consented in advance to make it assignable. But experience with that process tended to confirm the mistrust. Dunning agencies that buy up overdue accounts and try to collect them are widely seen as several notches less scrupulous than the in-house billing departments of established merchants with good will to protect. There was little enthusiasm for extending the assignability idea to, say, divorce, libel, child-support, or car-crash claims.

And yet the logic of legal entrepreneurship points in that direction. Once lawyers feel comfortable taking a one-third share in a suit in exchange for forgiving their fee, why should they stick at taking a two-thirds share purchased by way of a direct payment to the client? After all, such a payment might enable the client to resist the otherwise seductive settlement offers of the opponent. Champerty has not yet been made lawful, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is widespread.
Comparatively routine are fee-splitting arrangements in which the law firm that lands a client sells him to a second firm for a share of the eventual fee. This allows a division of labor between lawyers who are good at inciting litigation and those who are good at waging it. More creative financial techniques are on the horizon, as speculative legal practices find ways to secure outside financing for their inventory of grievance. A Los Angeles bank has joined with the local trial lawyers' association to offer a "client cost acount program" to fund the costs of lawsuits. The line of credit is nominally taken out in the client's name but the lawyer is the one who guarantees it; in exchange for fronting the money, the bank gets a lien against any recovery.

West Coast entrepreneurs have also been pioneering something called the syndicated lawsuit, in which venture capitalists chip in to build a war chest for a lawsuit in exchange for shares of any recovery. Such syndicates have spread especially fast in the world of patents, where they appear only a slight novelty: If it is proper to buy the full rights to an invention, why not buy just the right to sue people for selling allegedly patent-infringing products?

The syndication format is adaptable to many other types of lawsuit. Its most spectacular success thus far has come in a commercial suit. A syndicate bought a promissory note that the ComputerLand Corporation had issued in its start-up days and sued the company on the theory that the note was really intended to be convertible to vastly more valuable ComputerLand common stock. It convinced a jury of this theory and won a $ 125 million jackpot as well as a big equity stake in the successful retailer. Shares in the syndicate that had been offered originally at $ 10,000 skyrocketed to a trading value of $ 750,000. The organizing lawyer, rather like a Viking clambering aboard a rich merchant ship, even got to join ComputerLand's board of directors.

These trends have a logical culmination: unlimited public trading of lawsuit shares. Although a New York Verdict Exchange has not yet been set up to handle this new type of commerce, it may be closer than we think. For a while, investors who bought shares in Pennzoil were mostly buying a legal claim against Texaco to which a collection of refineries and miscellaneous assets happened to attach.

A stroke of legal innovation in the 1960s promised to go yet further in dislodging many inhibited claims.

The old law had long recognized an obscure type of lawsuit known as a bill of peace. It could be used when many persons had been harmed in the same way by the same offender. One of the earliest English cases, which perfectly illustrates the principle, was allowed against a shipowner accused of cheating a returning crew of its wages. The law could have handled the charges by holding a hundred (or however many) trials, and if the owner had lost the first cases he might not have fought to the bitter end. But why hold so many trials when the underlying issue was the same each time?

By the time the bill of peace had evolved into what we now know as the class action, it had some peculiar attractions for the aspiring drummer-up of litigation. Class actions permit recruitment and solicitation not just by ones and twos, but by carloads and counties. A client with some smallish complaint walks in, having seen the lawyer's flashing sign or matchbook cover; he turns out to be a human Klondike, because his injury is the same as that of a host of others with whom he can be joined in a class. But the rules made it hard to organize class actions. And so the rules had to be changed. A 1966 round of Federal reforms made it easier to organize actions involving very large groups. In 1974 the Supreme Court did away with a rule that had required the organizing lawyer to show a significant chance of winning on the merits. Group suits began to burgeon in the antitrust, employment, environmental, and welfare-benefits fields.

The American class-action lawyer can represent thousands or millions of people who have never seen or dealt with him, or one another, in any way: All the soldiers who fought in an overseas war, all the buyers of a certain car, all the consumers who might not have bought Perrier water had they known it contained infinitesimal traces of benzene, and so forth.

Under modern rules, members of a class are given a chance to opt out of the suit in their name by sending in a postcard, in the sort of "negative check-off" familiar to members of book and record clubs. Unlike other club members, however, members of the suit-of-the-month club do not save any money by opting out of the latest selection, and not many usually do so, especially since their own withdrawal would do nothing to prevent the suit from going forward in the name of everyone else. Like voters in one-party states, a few scratch the designated name off the ballot, and the rest get counted as client/supporters for no better reason than inertia.

The class-action lawyer does not of course have to pick as a client the first member of the outraged collectivity who happens along. In the age of legal solicitation, he can search out just the right one. Of the many class members, at least one may turn out to be the wonderfully obliging sort of client who leaves the case's management entirely in the lawyer's hands. It might be a cousin, an old college chum, or a colleague on the class-action circuit for whom the lawyer once did a similar service. The client may also have the grace to be qualified to sue in the state of judicial district that the lawyer considers most favorable to this kind of suit or hostile to this defendant. And through the miracle of the class action a million complainants who have never set foot in that sympathetic state or court district can also be brought in to benefit from its brand of justice.

Most notable was the class action's treatment of lawyers' fees. If the suit makes good, the lawyer can't very well (so the theory goes) negotiate with a hundred sailors or a thousand shareholders for his fee. Instead, he asks the court to deduct an appropriate sum from the total award or settlement before it gets distributed among the plaintiffs.

Judges are not as well situated to watch meters as paying clients, and when the fee request is presented to them at the end of the suit many feel uneasy about trying to reconstruct, without benefit of adversary process, how much lawyering should have been done in a case that may have lasted for years and has gone on mostly outside the courtroom. Once lawyers figure out what a court will tolerate, they somehow tend to pitch their fee requests around that level, and the effective contingency fee is complete. A substantial literature in the law reviews urges courts to move to an open percentage or bounty system.

Like many innovations making it easier to sue, class actions were recommended as a way to cut court costs. They soon grew monstrously expensive and complicated. As plaintiff groups got bigger they got more motley, and it got harder to pretend that the members had the same interest at all. Some lawyers began collecting on cases where thousands of claimants had only a few dollars at stake apiece, and law school visionaries began working on techniques to lump into a viable action nationwide claims of a penny or two per person. The reductio ad absurdum was reached when a court allowed a lawsuit against a labor union to go forward as a class action although every single member of the class except the named plaintiff objected to it.

Under the old taxi-hire conception, where the point of litigation was to protect the legitimate interests of the named client, outright disloyalty to that client's interests was a high sin. As lawyers increasingly became the real players in class and batch litigation, as clients came to seem a bothersome obstruction, a new ideology was needed to justify what was going on. The invisible-fist theory fit the bill perfectly by shifting the focus to the need to chastise the opponent and deter future misbehavior by those in a similar position. A defendant who ponied up a stiff settlement, after all, was just as effectively chastised and deterred whether or not the named client ever saw much of the money. Litigation where the lawyer or his friends kept much or all of the proceeds could thus be idealistically reconceived as a new and higher form of litigation, on behalf of the interests of future victims in general rather than any one past victim.

Before long it was being argued that the legal entrepreneur was really a new kind of public servant, the "private attorney general," who represented the interests of the citizenry at large (without being subject to any actual public account or control, of course) and who should thus be free, like the elected or appointed public prosecutor, to file his civil charges without the prompting or perhaps even the permission of injured persons. Not all charges would pan out, but even a losing suit had its virtues; it showed a sort of police presence in a doubtful area, and the act of stopping and frisking this defendant showed others that they were being watched.


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Monday, June 16, 2003


We now face the situation where insurance companies are no longer willing to provide insurance cover for a wide range of community events, from rodeos to cricket matches to church fetes to poetry festivals. Promoters (including honorary promoters) of such events face personal bankruptcy if sued by an individual who suffers injury while attending or participating in such events.

The tourism industry is entitled to be worried. Some members of the public may have the impression that the 11 September attacks in the USA have pushed up all insurance costs. In fact, the actuaries who advise insurance companies have calculated that insuring community events is no longer profitable, and can be dangerous to the viability of insurers.

The reasons include: The development of an American-style culture of litigation, whereby any misfortune tends to bring the response "sue somebody!". and defendants are moreover at risk of class actions. Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, deals effectively with the matter in "The Litigation Explosion (what happened when America unleashed the lawsuit)”. Other relevant material from Walter Olson may be found at “Over-lawyered.com, litigation and lawyers behaving badly”. Court verdicts create the impression, at least for laymen, that the legal system is infected by a “deep pockets syndrome”, which has the effect of a presumption that any organisation with money (for example an insurance company), should pay a significant part of that money to any litigant, irrespective of the merits of the case.

Advertising by some legal practitioners has the effect of increasing the number of individuals willing to seek damages, in some cases for minor injuries, and in some cases for injuries for which the victim has been partly or even wholly responsible. The “no-win-no-pay” policy of some legal practitioners in bygone days might have been described as champerty (which ceased to be a crime in New South Wales by the Maintenance, Champerty and Barratry Abolition Act 1993), but now frees potential litigants from the discipline implied by the obligation to pay legal fees. Some juries have given the impression, through multi-million dollar verdicts, that ordinary Australians, when placed in a position of responsibility, can be swept along the paths of temptation in some kind of record-setting adventure. Anecdotal material suggests that some injuries, sustained in the home or in an environment where the opportunity of litigation is not available, are wrongly attributed to attendance at a venue where insurance cover is available. It is possible that public liability insurance costs have been inflated by irresponsible promoters, for example of “rave concerts” where environments are patently dangerous. Other observers, and insurance law practitioners, might add to this list.

What worries Australians is the effect, which amounts to a serious threat of an end to important Australian institutions. Some news organisations have suggested that even Anzac Day is at risk. Moving cautiously Senator Coonan, a prudent and energetic Minister with a strong academic background, is certain to approach the problem with a high level of caution complementing her enthusiasm for finding a solution. Wisdom dictates that governmental responses will attempt to preserve Common Law principles. Further, while there are undoubted advantages in a nationally consistent approach, all parties will be aware that responses to the present difficulty will essentially be experimental. Accordingly differences in legislation among the States and Territories may be advantageous. What can be done? Here are some suggestions:

Remembering that the Common Law on Negligence evolved out of Contract Law, one could reasonably propose that non-paying attendees at an event should have no right of action against the organisers. In other words, no Council, RSL Club or other community organisation should be placed in financial jeopardy through organising the conduct of Anzac Day. Let’s think about restating the Common Law principle that if one comes to a danger, one accepts the risk. A caber-tossing competitor should not have the right to sue the organisers for back strain, nor should a topless sunbather at Fairy Bower have the right to sue the Manly Council for sunburn. An individual who breaks the rules at a venue should lose any right to sue, and a vital aspect of this is that attendees should be obliged to inform themselves of the rules. The operator of a zoo should be free from the threat of litigation from an individual who loses a limb after climbing into the lions’ cage, and the injured party should have no right to complain: “I did not see the warning sign” or “The warning sign was written only in English”.

We should consider upholding the right of consenting parties to enter contracts restricting liability. If attend a performance in Canowindra by leading bush poet Frank Daniel organised by the Country Women’s Association, I have no objection to purchasing from the CWA a ticket which states that the liability of the organisers is restricted to the reasonably foreseeable consequences of negligence. If I want to be protected against the risk of a light fitting falling on my head or against slipping on a staircase, then I should insure against personal injury. Nor should I have the right to claim that no-one warned me to read the back of the ticket. The public has a right to know, in respect of damages payouts, the amount payable to the legal practitioners involved. Juries have a right to know, in the course of a case, the details of any verdict-sharing agreement between a litigant and the litigant’s legal advisers.

In addition to these practical suggestions, here is a more radical discussion point. The Federal Government presently collects (on behalf of the States and Territories) 10% GST on all tickets sales for community events. Perhaps the authorities could consider inviting expressions of interests from insurance companies who might be willing to provide blanket public risk insurance for events run by registered charities and designated community organisations, subject to limitations including those proposed above, in return for a portion of that GST levy. This approach would eliminate the very substantial administrative costs of public liability insurance, which presently requires substantial paperwork for premiums which are necessarily modest. Public Liability Insurance is a matter of urgent concern.


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Sunday, June 15, 2003
Why and How the Military Salutes President Bush

By an anonymous author

Have you noticed a difference in the salute given by our military men and women as President Bush walks by? Most folks would not notice anything, but military people see it right away. Watch: when President Bush leaves his helicopter or Air Force One, the honour guards salute and face him as he disembarks, then turn their faces towards him as he passes by. They continue to salute his back as he walks away.

This kind of salute has not been seen in the previous eight years, though it is customary courtesy to the Commander-in-Chief.

You see, soldiers aren't required to turn and face the President as they salute. They are not required to salute his back. They are only required to salute. They can remain face-forward the entire time. And that is what they did during Bill Clinton's entire Presidency. Our soldiers were forced to obey Clinton's orders, but they were not forced to respect him. ...From their salutes, we can surmise that they did not.

Why is such respect afforded to President Bush? He doesn't even know how to bite his lower lip and he gets teary-eyed whenever he speaks!

The following incident from Major General Van Antwerp may give us an insight. Gen. Antwerp is president of the Officers' Christian Fellowship.

He lost nearly all his staff when the Pentagon was attacked Sept.11. His executive officer LTC Brian Birdwell was badly burned and in the hospital when President Bush visited him. Our President spent time and prayed with Brian. As he was getting ready to leave, he went to the foot of Brian's bed and saluted. He held his salute until Brian was able to raise his burned and bandaged arm, ever so slowly, in return.

The Commander-in-Chief never initiates a salute, except in the case of a Congressional Medal of Honour winner. The injured soldier did not have to return the salute. But he did, out of respect to his President - a Soldiers President.

Congressman JC Watts (R. Oklahoma) said, "Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. In this time of war and danger, I am so grateful to have a President whom the soldiers salute - fully."

On Special Report with Brit Hume, at the close of the show when they normally have some funny video clip, they showed President Bush and the First Lady on their way to Marine One to leave for Camp David for the weekend.

As the video starts, the First Lady is leading the way into the helicopter with the spaniel dog on the leash, and the president is right behind her with the Scotty on the leash. As the First Lady entered the chopper, the Marine at the gangway saluted and held his salute.

The Scottie the President was walking decided it wanted to squat right when he got to steps. The president pulled on its leash, but the stubborn Scottie persisted in squatting. The President bent down and scooped up the pooch and entered Marine One. After he entered, the Marine cut his salute and returned to the position of attention.

Moments later the president re-emerged from the helicopter and out onto the steps. The Marine was standing at attention, head and eyes straight ahead.

The president leaned over and tapped him on the left arm. The startled Marine turned his body toward the president and received his returned salute!

I was so impressed by this true act of respect for our military people by our president! He really does get it. Most any other person of his stature would have just continued his journey, disregarding the neglected return salute. Not George W. Bush. He is earning the respect of the military community, not expecting it - as most would.


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Saturday, June 14, 2003

Excerpt from “Wired” news:

THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT has quietly banned the sale of computers and computer accessories to the public, except in cases where the items are "indispensable" and the purchase is authorized by the Ministry of Internal Commerce.

The computer departments of the retail stores were divided into two zones: a well-stocked area for government buyers, and a smaller area where the public could buy diskettes, CDs and other such items. A store employee told the correspondent she was forbidden from discussing the move, which was also referred to briefly in a newsletter published by the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

"If we didn't have an embargo, there could be computers for everybody," Fernandez replied when asked this question: Are computer sales to the public banned in Cuba?

Several weeks later, a government employee in Cuba sent Wired News, through a Web-based e-mail account, a copy of a resolution mandating the ban. In an interview using an instant-messaging service, the source -- who asked to remain anonymous -- criticized the decree and said it had generated a great deal of controversy within government circles after it was unilaterally mandated by the Minister of Internal Commerce, Barbara Castillo.

According to Article 19, Chapter II, Section 3 of the ministry's Resolution No. 383/2001: "The sale of computers, offset printer equipment, mimeographs, photocopiers, and any other mass printing medium, as well as their parts, pieces and accessories, is prohibited to associations, foundations, civic and nonprofit societies, and natural born citizens. In cases where the acquisition of this equipment or parts, pieces and accessories is indispensable, the authorization of the Ministry of Internal Commerce must be solicited."

The source's decision to send the information was especially daring in light of a gag law that mandates a 3- to 10-year prison term for anyone who collaborates with "enemy news media." Because government officials refused to comment on the ban, the reason for the move is a matter of speculation.

The rise of independent journalists in Cuba, who published articles on the Internet criticizing the Castro regime, may have something to do with it. The correspondents, who risk jail time for their "subversive" reports, send their stories by fax, e-mail or phone dictation to supporters in Miami. "We believe our website had something to do with it," said Manrique Iriarte Sr., who helps run the website for the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists, which launched a few weeks before the ban was passed in late December.

The economists' site offers a sharp contrast to the rosy Marxist dream proffered by Castro, including news of opposition arrests and detailed reports on the decrepit state of the island economy. The site is blocked in Cuba.

Iriarte said he visited several Havana stores in January where employees told him computer equipment was only available for "accredited state entities."

The move didn't surprise Cuba-watchers in the United States. "This just reflects a further restriction on communications with the outside world," said Eugene Pons, of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami.
The government already requires Cubans who can afford Internet accounts -- which cost $260 a month, while the average Cuban salary is $240 a year -- to register with National Center for Automated Data Exchange (CENAI), Pons said. For those who do manage to log on, the Internet experience is limited: The government-controlled ISPs block links to certain foreign media, anti-Castro sites and pornography.

The government has also admitted to monitoring e-mail. To circumvent such spying, residents use Web-based e-mail accounts and chat services to make their communication harder to trace. Indeed, the Cuban source used a Web-based account to reply to a message sent to the person's government account.

"If I disappear from cyberspace one day, it's because they found out I was talking to you," the source said


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