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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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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