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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Saturday, January 25, 2003


(Robert Burns was born this day in 1759)

Scots Wha Hae

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie.

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front of battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slaverie!

Wha will be a traitor's knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha's sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha for Scotland's King and Law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Free-man stand, or free-man fa'?
Let him follow me!

By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do, or die!


To a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!

Then horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As fecl;ess as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!




While it is important that bad policies should be exposed and corrected, it is even more important that rapid steps be taken to strengthen then Nation's capacity to fight the bushfire foe. One answer may lie in bigger and better weapons.

The tragedy of Canberra, with loss of life and the destruction of more than 400 homes plus the Mount Stromlo Observatory, emphasises the urgent need for aircraft which can rapidly deliver large quantities of water and fire retardant. It appears that the Boeing 747 is ideal for this role.

The Boeing 747 is capable of carrying up to 120 tonnes of water and fire retardant, eleven times the capacity of the famous Sky Crane helicopter. Moreover, as the world's fastest subsonic commercial aircraft, with an economical cruising speed exceeding 900 km per hour and range exceeding 12,000 km, the 747 can deploy rapidly wherever it is needed, and has the best available navigation and communications equipment.

One can speculate that the availability of a couple of 747 water-tankers operating out of Canberra Airport, filling in relays from an elevated tank and each capable of delivering in one pass the equivalent of nearly an inch of rain to a drop zone of around 4,000 square metres, might have contributed greatly to preserving life and property in recent days.

The cost of operation of water-bombing 747 aircraft could be significantly offset by the sale of naming rights. An international advertiser will welcome the opportunity to display a message on an aircraft which will certainly receive major television exposure.

Let us hope than State and Federal Governments can find a formula for offering contracts of sufficient worth and duration to persuade an aviation company to convert a couple of 747 aircraft to the water bomber role, and base them in Australia.

Such aircraft could be made available on a lease basis in the Australian winter to northern hemisphere countries which suffer bushfires, including USA, Canada, Greece and Finland.

It is also worth mentioning that Australia needs to replace its Boeing 707 tanker aircraft. The 747 is ideal for this role, with the capacity to carry four times as much avgas as a 707, at a higher speed, and with at least 1,000 nautical miles extra range. Moreover, the 747 is capable of carrying a full load of troops to a deployment, then immediately commence operations as a flying refueller.

So let's think about 747s capable of carrying collapsible tanks for both water/fire-suppressant and avgas.


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Friday, January 24, 2003

OUR HEARTS GO OUT to all who have lost loved ones in the ghastly fires which have ravaged whole suburbs of the Nation's capital, Canberra, and to more than four hundred families who have lost their homes and their treasured possessions. Victoria has faced the most severe bushfires for decades, and the threat continues in New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, and Southern Queensland.

Professional firemen and volunteers have as usual displayed the unique brand of professionalism and heroism which distinguishes Australians in combat when fighting against the odds. When high temperatures and high winds combine with the dense fuel build up caused by years of neglect, then the odds are certainly stacked the wrong way.

Australians can no longer avoid reality. The reality is that left to its own devices a tree can only do three things. A tree can propagate. A tree can fall over and decay. A tree can catch fire and burn. The only way a tree can make a positive contribution to the world's oxygen balance beyond its own life is to be cut down and transformed into books, houses, furniture, boats, pit props or other useful timber products.

Around Australia influential groups and individuals have been chanting a mantra that there is something criminal about cutting down a tree, or in conducting any kind of burning off. Sadly, the influence of those groups and individuals has resulted in a large and growing danger to life and property. This may be of no concern to the fringe elements who believe that people are less important than trees, but it is of great concern to all the people who have lost loved ones to fires. It is of great concern to more than four hundred families whose homes have been destroyed in Canberra. It is of great concern to thousands of Australians who today live under the threat of fire.

The New South Wales Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts, The Hon Bob Debus, is responsible among other things for National Parks. National Parks are notorious for breeding foxes, feral pigs and, of course bushfires. Minister Debus keeps repeating in the media his signature tune "Only ten percent of bushfires begin in National Parks", which is as ridiculous an assertion as the statement "Only ten percent of wars begin in Europe." Some wars. Some bushfires.

Debus has done nothing to curb the animist ambitions of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, where the prevailing culture seems to favour the creation of a highly paid sheltered workshop for people who essentially dislike humanity, or at least the civilised version of humanity and all its works.

No-one has yet been prosecuted for the October 2000 massacre of 600 horses in the Guy Fawkes National Park. National Parks and Wildlife Service is still fighting the claimants for compensation for the NP&WS contribution to the Thredbo disaster of July 1997 when eighteen people lost their lives in a landslide. Coroner Derrick Hand in June 2000 determined that the National Parks and Wildlife Service had been responsible for the care, control and management of the Park and the Alpine Way since 1967 but had failed to act to ensure the safety of the village. Coroner Hand recommended an independent investigation into whether the NP&WS was properly equipped to carry out its multiple roles of urban planning, road maintenance and environmental monitoring.

Meanwhile, the NP&SW pushes ahead with its aim of banning all grazing in National Parks, and preventing horse-riding in National Parks. NP&WS has been given responsibility for the Sydney foreshores, and has failed to act on a 1994 report by Fielder Engineers which drew attention to the sorry lack of fire protection at the North Head Quarantine Station. Two historic buildings have already been destroyed. Manly Hospital - adjacent to the heavy growth on North Head, is now widely regarded as a dangerous firetrap.

Minister Debus is also the Member for the Blue Mountains, where his Labor mates who control the Blue Mountains City Council are among the worst offenders in deterring residents from protecting their properties. The Blue Mountains City Council is reportedly attempting to force residents to replace their fire-resistant imported trees with highly inflammable native eucalypts.

Blue Mountains residents who believe that people are more important than trees are hoping for victory on 22 March 2003 for Liberal Party candidate for Blue Mountains, Quentin Cook. Offer support to Quentin's campaign by contacting campaign manager, Cr Daniel Myles, 0414 418 161 or 4751 4928.


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Thursday, January 23, 2003

The horror of the Ukraine Famine, perpetrated by the despicable Soviet occupiers, was a terrible blow such as few nations ever had to suffer. A genuine recovery from the disaster was of course impossible while Ukraine remained under foreign domination.

The persecution of Ukraine continued after the famine with mass deportations -- usually fatal -- and the loss in war of millions of Ukrainians. The majority of the dead were conscripted into the Red Army and were claimed ever since as “Russian” casualties. A lesser number were conscripted by the Nazis. Then there were the uncounted Ukrainian soldiers who lost their lives as members of the broadly based patriotic movement --- including the “Ukrainian Insurgent Army” -- which fought for the Homeland against both the Soviets and the Nazis. And of course the dreadful toll taken of Ukrainian civilians.

Ukraine is a nation which deserves a reversal of fortune, and that process began with the 16 July 1990 declaration of Ukrainian sovereignty and the 24 August 1991 Renewed Declaration of Independence of Ukraine. Forward progress of the Ukrainian Nation will be greatly assisted by international acceptance and understanding of the wickedness which for most of the twentieth century inflicted mass murder and persecution upon the Ukrainian people.

Ukrainians keep alive memory of great famine

By Ian Warden

(Excerpts from an article in the Canberra Times of 2 December 2002)

THE SPARKLING SUMMER AIR was filled with incense as spectacularly dressed priests led the singing of a choir at yesterday's national commemoration in Canberra of the 70th anniversary of the great famine in the Ukraine.

Between seven million and 10 million Ukrainians died in what speakers at the event said was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.

The "artificial famine" of 1932-33 was created by Stalin as he collectivised the farms and crushed the spirits of the Ukrainian people, selling the grain they had grown and deliberately leaving none for the Ukrainians.

Yesterday's event, attended by Australian Ukrainians from all over eastern Australia, was held at the striking marble and steel Famine Memorial in front of the Ukrainian Orthodox Centre in Turner.

Famine survivor Maria Janeczko, of Canberra, was one of many who laid a wreath at the event, while the congregation stood in the shade of trees and the already brilliantly robed priests were made even more colourful by the blue and white parasols held over them to shelter them from the sun.

Another famine survivor, Father Vasyl Czerwaniw of Sydney, splendid in purple and gold, was one of the leaders of the commemoration service and a passionate speaker about the impact of the tragedy.

Canberran Andrew Liszczynsky said, "It's not ancient history; it's only a generation ago.

"Speak to some of our parents and grandparents and they can still remember where they were in the Ukraine during the famine ... and they remember what they experienced when this horrible man-made disaster was inflicted on the Ukrainian people.

"The survivors have many painful memories. They were innocent of any crime ... Between seven and 10 million Ukrainian died and this is only really put into context when we equate it to about half of Australia's current population. So look around you here today. Imagine half of today's gathering could disappear in such cruel and heartless circumstances. Imagine how we'd grieve for those who perished and imagine how our parents; grandparents and forefathers grieved for their loved ones."


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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The reason to go to war with Iraq obviously is so that it does not become a nuclear power like Pyongyang.

The very reason North Korea has become a nuclear power is a decade of appeasement by previous administrations. And the reason not to go to war with North Korea is only that it has the ability, which Saddam Hussein still lacks, to turn a conventional military action into a regional nuclear war. We hawks, believe it or not, understand the difference between using military force to preclude a future nuclear conflict and initiating military action that might spark one. Those of us who, in the early 1990s, advocated a military strike on North Korea as the only way to halt its nuclear ambitions, are reluctant to advocate that course today.

Thankfully, viable military options exist for dealing with Saddam. And the Bush administration intends to pursue them over the coming winter months. The bad news is that there are no longer viable military options for dealing with North Korea. While the administration pursues diplomacy with China, Japan and Russia in an effort to pressure North Korea to fold its nuclear program, and while the U.S. may even succeed in mobilizing a coalition behind economic sanctions against North Korea, neither of these strategies is likely to achieve disarmament. Diplomacy, even backed by a credible military threat, doesn't guarantee results, as a decade of failed diplomacy with Saddam clearly demonstrates. But diplomacy absent a credible military threat inevitably is impotent.

What Pyongyang offers the world is a clear picture of the consequences of appeasement. Apologists for Saddam should see in North Korea the proof that, contrary to their wishful thinking, cajoling dictators doesn't make the world safer, but rather more dangerous. Indeed, Pyongyang's possession of plutonium with which to make bombs--and perhaps the bombs themselves--is the result of more than a decade of diplomatic duplicity between North Korea and the U.S. As long ago as the early '90s, U.S. intelligence believed North Korea had sufficient plutonium to make at least two nuclear bombs. To halt Pyongyang achieving greater nuclear capability, the Clinton administration agreed to provide North Korea oil and non-plutonium-producing reactors to meet its energy needs if it would give up its nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang agreed. Yet when confronted by the U.S. this fall with hard evidence of its nuclear capabilities, Pyongyang simply acknowledged it had lied.

As one who has visited both Baghdad and Pyongyang and interviewed Saddam if not Kim Jong Il, I see both important similarities and crucial differences between these two rogue nations. First the similarities. The most chilling one is that both are ruled by dictators whose isolation and ruthless hold over their people have left them almost completely out of touch with the real world. This is dangerous because neither ruler is responsive to the rational thinking, to the carrots and sticks, that guides action by other leaders in other countries. As counterintuitive as it may seem, Kim Jong Il is the less isolated of the two. He at least has traveled to Moscow and Beijing, where his hosts presumably gave him some small dose of reality. Saddam, by contrast, hasn't left Iraq since 1979, when he visited France shortly after seizing power. Both are surrounded by yes-men who, even if aware of outside realities, aren't courageous enough to speak truths to their puppeteer.

Both Saddam and Kim Jong Il have no compunction about torturing, murdering or, in the case of North Korea, also starving to death their own citizens in order to preserve power. Both share a belief that their best protection from threat lies in the development of weapons of mass destruction--above all nuclear weaponry.

If Iraq is the worst-ruled nation in a world we know, North Korea is of a different world.

What distinguishes the North Korean crisis from any other is the nature of North Korea. The U.S. isn't dealing with a rational adversary as with the Soviet Union in the Cuban missile crisis. Nor is it facing a ragtag Third World regime like Afghanistan, Serbia or Libya. The U.S. is facing the world's most intransigent totalitarian regime, one with nothing to gain from peaceful coexistence and little to lose from confrontation. For such a regime, nothing is so valuable as nuclear weaponry. No other assets compare.

This is what makes North Korea even more dangerous than Iraq, where regime change can be accomplished quickly. No such swift outcome is possible in North Korea.

Even if airtight sanctions are agreed on, a desperate regime in Pyongyang might conclude it has nothing left to lose and go to war with South Korea. The point here is there are no good options left for dealing with a nuclear North Korea whose ruler knows his very survival depends on retaining a nuclear capability. Indeed, the lesson Kim Jong Il almost surely has deduced from the impending war with Iraq is that all that stands between his fate and Saddam's is his credible confession that he has nuclear capability and a credible fear abroad he might use it. His surprising confession was prompted by concerns for his own security.

But the lesson we must draw from the North Korean crisis is that we cannot pursue a policy of appeasement that permits Iraq to become another nuclear North Korea.

More here


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Tuesday, January 21, 2003


In Friday sermons across the Middle East last week, Islamic leaders denounced American "plots" against Muslims and called on Allah to destroy Jews, the United States and its allies, according to the Israel-based Independent Media Review Analysis, or IMRA, a digest of media in the region.

On Yemen television, from the Grand Mosque in Sanaa, Sheik Akram Abd-al-Razzaq al-Ruqeihi prayed:

"O God, destroy the United States and its allies and let them suffer, particularly tyrant and arrogant Americans. O God, destroy the Jews, for they are within your power."

The Yemeni sheik criticized some Arab and Islamic countries for their secret support, neutrality or silence over purported U.S. plans for the Muslim world.

"You all know that the U.S. designs will not be restricted to Iraq," he said. "Conspiracies are being concocted for other countries with the aim of striking Islam and Muslims, humiliating them, and subjugating them to the tyrant will."

Saudi Arabia's official television station carried Sheik Sa'ud Bin-Ibrahim al-Shureim's sermon from the holy mosque in Mecca in which he cited the prophet Muhammad's traditions in his exhortation to Muslims to not follow the "examples of Jews and Christians."

In his concluding prayer, the imam said: "O God, strengthen Islam and Muslims, humiliate infidelity and infidels, destroy your enemies, the enemies of Islam, and protect this country."

He continued: "O God, help our mujahedin brothers, who fight for your sake everywhere. O God, help them score victory over your enemy and their enemy."

On Syrian Arab Republic Radio, Sheik Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barakat spoke from Al-Rawdah Mosque in Damascus.

In his concluding prayer, the imam said "O God, help Arabs and Muslims score victory over your enemy and their enemy and destroy the treacherous Zionists and their followers. O God, support our mujahedin brothers in the occupied Arab territories."

On official Iraqi television from Abd-al-Qadir al-Jeilani Mosque in Baghdad, Sheik Abd-al prayed that God would "help the faithful score victory over infidels."

He continued: "O God, help your mujahedin servants in Palestine and Iraq. O God, strengthen them and help them score victory over your enemy and their enemy."

"O God, destroy unjust infidels, criminal Americans, and aggressive Zionist Jews," the Iraqi sheik said. "O God, destroy them, shake the ground under them. O God weaken them, disperse them, down their planes, and drown their ships."

The imam also asked God to help President Saddam Hussein confront infidels and liberate Palestine.



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Monday, January 20, 2003


TERRORISM, BRUTALITY, POLYGAMY: why it's so easy to "hijack" Islam, the so-called "religion of peace"...

Planes crashing into the World Trade Center, bombers blowing themselves up in crowded supermarkets, female genital mutilation, the imprisonment of rape victims, polygamy: the media claims that all these are results of the "hijacking" of Islam, "the religion of peace."

But here at last is a book that dares to tell the truth about Islam -- and to show you exactly why this religion is so easy to "hijack," and what Islamic authorities really teach about such barbarities!

Exploding dozens of PC myths, Robert Spencer goes beyond the media's shallow distinction between "true" Islam and terrorist Islam to demonstrate that Islamic fanaticism and terrorism are rooted in the Koran and core Islamic traditions. He shows that since Muslim radicalism stems from elements at the religion's heart, Islamic moderates will never convince the Muslim world at large that there is no place for violence in Islam.

Refreshingly free of multiculturalist cant, Islam Unveiled goes straight to Islamic sources to explain why Muslims worldwide take the violent passages in the Koran as marching orders for today, while Jews and Christians do not do so with similar passages in the Old Testament. Spencer also forthrightly examines the treatment of women in the Islamic world, tracing the devastating societal effects of Muslim polygamy and Islamic divorce laws.

Among the startling revelations of Islam Unveiled:

Ø What Muslim authorities worldwide really said about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Ø Suicide bombing: the rationale for this barbaric practice in Islamic theology

Ø Muslim "fundamentalists": a radical fringe? Why their message has such resonance in the Islamic world even among those who will never commit any acts of violence

Ø Wife-beating: sanctioned by the Koran -- and by contemporary Islamic commentators! The shocking details

Ø Rape in Islam: why, under Islamic law, it's virtually impossible to prove

Ø The truth about Aisha, Muhammad's nine-year-old wife (plus the Muslim world's sorry record of child brides)

More here.


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Sunday, January 19, 2003


Excerpts from a Town Hall article.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton recalls that she started 2002 facing a barrage of advertisements against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) sponsored by the Sierra Club and the National Council of Churches. "The National Council of Churches contends that the solution is to consume less and leave the ANWR as God made it, clean, frozen and populated by wild animals, not pipelines, jetports, scrap metal and contaminated waste sites," announces the council on its website.

Norton presents a photo of hundreds of caribou grazing with in half a mile of an active oil rig and production facilities at Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. Yes, that's wild animals eating and relaxing, to paraphrase the church-enviros, near Alaskan pipeline, scrap metal and industrial building "as God made it."

"It's always difficult to talk about emotional reactions," Norton notes. "What we need to explain is the reality of the situation, the reality shown by pictures, that caribou can co-exist with 25-year-old technology. The (caribou) population has grown by several multiples."

Indeed, there are nine times as many caribou at Prudhoe Bay than there were in 1974, according to George Ahmaogak, the Inupiat Eskimo mayor of the North Slope Borough.

America, Norton notes, "is a nation that runs on petroleum."

America's national security depends on a steady, secure oil supply. The Bush energy agenda, with ANWR drilling, made sense when it was proposed in May 2001, Norton notes, and, "It certainly makes sense after Sept. 11."

You see two worlds at play here. There's Norton's world, where real people have real energy needs, and a realistic approach to meeting those needs.

There's the "ANWR as God made it" world, also populated with real people with real energy needs, except that they're so special they oppose efforts to get more oil to fuel the cars they drive.




Hi Michael,

I agree with you that the ICC should not allow any games to be played in Zimbabwe, for the reasons you have outlined in your boycott editorial. However I also believe that it should not be left to the individual players of the team to make this stand.

As stated by Steve Waugh and Nasser Hussain both have said that the decision should be made by the governing body not the players.

I feel the same result will be achieved as was the case with the Australian Rugby League players did not want to travel to England to play in 2001 or 2002. The ICC should take advice from the governments of the countries involved and make a stance to protect the sports people and not turn them into political pawns

The situation is very different but my view is there should not be any games played in Zimbabwe under any circumstances.

Ita Kearney


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