Catallaxy Files

polymathic pontification, bleeding heart economic rationalism and liberal secularist contrarianism

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    Friday, July 19, 2002
    Face to face with Coulter
    UK's Telegraph has an interview with Ann Coulter. Check out the picture. And good to know at least she's not a fuddy duddy sort of conservative. Mad but hot, mad but hot, what more can I say?

    Thursday, July 18, 2002
    Amir Butler is not always wrong
    Alright, I'm an opinionated person but I sometimes try to be fair. And I try to give credit where I think credit is due. There are some things that I dislike about Amir Butler's blog like the fact that he regards creepy loons like Justin Raimondo as intelligent commentators (yes I regard Raimondo as even more beyond the pale - one of his last diatribes basically stopped short of accusing Mossad of engineering S11) and his apologias for Wahhabi Islam. Nonetheless Butler does a well-argued and researched take down (permalinks don't seem to be working) of Janet Albrechtsen's over-cited piece on the Lebanese gang rapes issue that has been fuming across the blogosphere lately. I generally appreciate most but not all of Albrechtsen's pieces but I won't turn a blind eye when someone I generally like makes evident flaws in logic and attribution of research.

    Monday, July 15, 2002
    Still reading and recent reads
    This occasional column is inspired by John Quiggin's similar postings on what he's been reading through the week. I figure writing about what I'm reading or just read would do some good in disciplining my highly omnivorous and unsystematic reading tendencies.

    Just finished (in one sitting, which indicates how well-written it is to me) by Cass Sunstein. Surprisingly more reasonable than I thought. This is Sunstein's screed against what he calls the 'daily me' i.e. news, opinion, etc programmed to individual tastes. Basically he has a problem with this and the erosion of mass media because he's afraid that people will end up retreating to intellectual ghettoes. He draws on republican theory quite intelligently to support his views. IMHO the blogging trend has shot his argument to pieces. Sure, lots of blogs preach to the converted but blogs do exactly what he wanted websites to do - *link* to opposing views even as they are attacking those views. If they want to attack specific op-ed pieces in a posting they have to link to them.

    One could even argue there is an invisible hand effect involved. Blogs don't exist without controversy. People read their opponents to find controversy. Perhaps I'm a masochist but I read people whom I disagree with on a regular basis - including Amir Butler and Justin Raimondo. Sure, maybe bloggers like me read their intellectual opponents with the wrong attitude i.e. to criticise them but nonetheless this fulfills Sunstein's minimum requirements for a genuine public fora where people don't just retreat into ghettoes - there is always the element of surprise and sometimes you read things with the intention of attacking them only to find them sometimes persuasive. Even if this doesn't happen very often this is the very element of serendipity that Sunstein fnds so valuable in 'public squares' i.e. Hyde Park type encounters with differing opinions.

    Other things I'm haphazardly still currently reading:
    1) The man without qualities by Robert Musil (a terribly engrossing giant of a novel set in Vienesse high society)
    2) The middle east by Bernard Lewis
    3) Markets, morals and the law by Jules Coleman (I am finding this a mixed batch of essays as is true of such collections, some brilliant, some going over ground I've been through already)
    4) Crypto by Steven Levy
    5) John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain by Robert Skidelsky
    Quiggin on Ergas
    John Quiggin has a thoughtful response to Henry Ergas's piece on privatisation which I had some involvement in the ultimate production of. I take John's point that the 'market for corporate control' isn't looking too flash in light of recent corporate governance failures. Nonetheless these corporate governance failures are a problem anyway independently of whether there is a case for or against privatisation - obviously privatisation would work better if we could start trusting accountants again. I'm not so sure about the argument that privatised companies are in the *long run* more rather than less likely to bow to political pressure than government business enterprises. This strikes me as highly counterintuitive and perhaps extrapolating too much from the experience of a Labor government with a reform champion in the form of Paul Keating. On the other hand I suppose you could say that if the regulatory climate facilitates privatised firms not being subject to pressures then that same climate is less likely to generate quangoes too.
    Memo to conservatives : Sue for defamation
    Don Arthur picks up the story about Pat Buchanan setting up a new publication called 'The American Conservative'. As The New Republic points out his collaborators in this joint venture are a heir to the Avon cosmetics fortune and a spoilt rich brat heir to a shipping fortune with a conviction for cocaine smuggling who consorts with similar parasites such as bulimic bluebloods. So much for a professed 'man of the people'. What Buchanan, McConnell and Taki all share is a hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) anti-Semitism. You know things have changed when The New Republic has more in common with conservative mainstream views than a magazine called The American Conservative.
    Consensus in the Australian blogosphere?
    Matthew Bates opines that there may be too much consensus in the Australian blogosphere (permalinks don't seem to be working):

    I was having 'issues' with blogger today, but I now seem to have rectified the situation in the most convoluted fashion possible. I'll add some links on the side bar to those who have recently linked to me. The Oz Blogging community is certainly in healthy shape. It's just a pity that we all tend to agree so much (with the odd exception).

    I beg to differ. I think a lot of the agreement between Oz Bloggers on certain issues is simply a reflection of what any reasonable person of common sense who is sufficiently well-informed would come to agree with. For instance
    1) even lefty economist John Quiggin agrees with the presumption that free trade in goods and services is generally a good thing;
    2) almost everyone agrees that suicide bombing in public places of innocent civilians is not a legitimate tactic of resistance under any circumstances.

    On the other hand there have been many genuine disagreement even among bloggers of roughly similar politics. I have diagreed irreconcilably with Tim Blair on the following issues:

    1) Euthanasia
    2) The propriety of kicking Cheryl Kernot when she's down
    3) The republic
    4) The relevance of referring to the recent gang rapes in Sydney as being perpetrated by a 'Muslim gang'. (According to that logic Vietnamese drug dealers are 'Buddhist drug dealers'. I'm sure Amir Butler can provide backing for my theory that nowhere in the Koran does it say that women who wear lipstick should be raped nor do I recall gangs of Malay Muslims attacking scantily clad career women when I lived in Malaysia for 15 years. The rapists were juvenile delinquents.)

    Sunday, July 14, 2002
    Islam is not always the problem
    Many people, including those in the blogosphere are understandably very upset and disgusted at the recent gang rape of teenage girls where the perpetrators told their victims that they would be 'fucked Leb style'. Gareth Parker, for one takes issue with a letter writer who warns against ethnic profiling.

    However, a word of caution here. Everyone knows the dire conditions into which particular suburbs have sunk. Is this gang rape the latest manifestation of a 'Lebanese problem'? No. Understand that the Lebanese community includes a varied range of people, many long integrated into the Australian community including the writer David Malouf, the founder of Aussie home loans and the current Governor of NSW - all Lebanese Christians. But neither is Islam the problem here.

    If anything what these vile rapists, nominally 'Lebanese Muslim' who threatened to fuck a 14 year old girl 'Leb style' were clearly needing were some Koranic lessons thumped into their sorry little skulls and some extremely strong family discipline. Arguably a strong dose of sharia law would suit them better currently than any New Age therapeutic mollycoddling they might get in prison. Let's hope they get hell, however. The point is that in this case Islam would have been a good supplement to whatever shitty parenting they were getting.




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