Catallaxy Files
 

 
polymathic pontification, bleeding heart economic rationalism and liberal secularist contrarianism

email: jasonsoon AT mail.com

 
 
 

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    Saturday, September 28, 2002
     
    Fisking the anti-fiskers
    I think that John Quiggin is creating a strawman with his fisking of 'fisking'. He argues that:

    . All I've done is follow links advertised as "Fiskings" and form my own judgements about what I've found. As far as I can tell, the sharp putdown is the critical component in a good (that is, widely linked) Fisking, and logical critique is at best an optional extra.


    However in the specific post I link to he places a lot of weight on a definition by Volokh which admittedly might be read as defining fisking as if 'logical argument' is an optional extra:

    Hence many pro-war blogs -- most famously, InstaPundit -- often use the term "Fisking" figuratively to mean a thorough and forceful verbal beating of an anti-war, possibly anti-American, commentator who has richly earned this figurative beating through his words. Good Fisking tends to be (or at least aim to be) quite logical, and often quotes the other article in detail, interspersing criticisms with the original article's text."


    I have my doubts about John's dependence on making his point using this definition, at least in this post, although he also claims to have generally surveyed examples of fisking (though with a seeming focus on just one fisker - Mark Steyn who has been a recurrent obsession of his of late). I'm not sure when Volokh became arbiter of the blogosphere and writer of the gospel on blogging.

    However let's go along with this definition for the moment. "Tends to" is the clincher in the definition provided above. To me "tend to" suggests most of the time - markets tend to equilibrate, projectiles tend to fall back to the earth - i.e. a majority of times. As a positive description of fisking this hardly suggests that the presence of logic is merely optional. As if that weren't enough, the definition John quotes also says:

    Good Fisking tends to be (or at least aim to be) quite logical

    Note - good fisking 'aims to be' quite logical. A normative prescription for fisking is that it is quite logical. Perhaps John is misinterpreting the word 'quite' here. 'Quite' can at times be quite ambiguous but it tends to suggest 'a large amount of' even though it can also be used in the opposite sense. Of course there is bad fisking as well as good fisking but the point is that the normative prescription is that it should (in the sense of aim to be) contain quite a lot of logic.

    Of course as I say, looking at one person's definition can only go so far. What you need to look at is what people actually do. Perhaps John has seen far too many examples of bad fisks (ie. those which fail the tendency requirement or the normative requirement according to my interpretation of the definition he uses). But this is itself beside the point. What are the generic features of fisking? Verbal putdowns are certainly their rationale - the aim of ridiculing, pointing out the idiocy of the fisked person's arguments, etc. But how can one be persuasive in one's ridicule without logic? The aim of a fisk is to bring ridicule on the person being fisked and logic is the most potent weapon for indulging in such ridicule. In my opinion, a fisk that lacks logical arguments is a bad fisk, but it is not meant to be characteristic of the custom of fisking.

    In fact, a fisk lacking in logic would not even be much of a fisk at all because the focus of a fisk is almost invariably an easy target. In particular, the other essential element of a fisk (arguably why it was named after Robert Fisk) is a certain 'boomerang' aspect to the argument being fisked - the potential to use the inherent logic (or rather lack of logic) in the fisked argument to turn it on it itself, - to expose it as highly illogical on its face, using the logic inherent within the argument to beat itself up.



    What then separates fisking from other forms of argument? Have I painted too generic a box for fisking? No the point is that fisking may well rankle academics like John Quiggin and Ken Parish because it is an attempted refutation of another's position that is not carried on in the genteel, polite and restrained manner that is the ideal protocol behind academic scholarship. Moreover it is logical refutation that has as a major aim pouring scorn and ridicule on the person being fisked - it is destructive whereas academic discourse (at least in theory) is meant to be constructive - that is, engaging in another's argument and then perhaps through some Hegelian dialectic arriving at a meeting of the minds. Am I over-idealising academic traditions here? No, I don't think so. There is a certain amount of encouraged restraint and diplomacy in academic discourse that is completely absent in fisking. Manifestations of agression tend to be understated or stated in as dry a tone as possible. But that doesn't make fisking as an institution any less valid an approach to refutation of arguments than the polite academic style that Parish and Quiggin are more used to.

    Think of how Kant wrote versus how Nietzsche wrote. A lot of Nietzsche's works were basically extended exercises in fisking whether it was fisking of Wagnerians or fisking of Christianity but the analytical stengths and insights of his work are obvious nonetheless. Thus I tend to agree with Bargarz who writes of Quiggin and Parish that

    Their definition of "Fisking" is really a subtle attempt at undermining Fisking and by implication - people who indulge in Fisking. The core assumption of their premise is the inference that Fisking is a sharp putdown that is mutually exclusive to logical critique. If this is accepted by the reader, the implied conclusion that Fiskings are just illogical rants is easy to draw. This trickery ignores what Fisking truly is (basically op-ed and critique rolled into one) and instead reduces it to the level of shrill, juvenile schoolground trash talk - and therefore something that proper thinking people will ignore. This argument is a deceptive one and a good example of how to use prejudicial language to buttress a point

    Friday, September 27, 2002
     
    Lots of flying, not much blogging
    At least not for the next few days. I will be attending a work-related summit for the whole of this weekend where I'll be co-presenting something on Sunday. Then on Monday evening I will be flying to New Zealand on a business trip in order to give yet another presentation (though on a completely different topic) on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately this means missing the first day of the Australian Conference of Economists which I was originally booked to attend, the same day on which I believe John Quiggin was presenting something on micro reform.

    I will then be flying back to Sydney on Tuesday evening and then catching a connecting flight to Adelaide that same evening. Which means I will be attending the 2nd day of the conference on which I am supposed to be co-presenting something (if I'm up to it by then). If Quiggin is hanging around for the 2nd day I suppose I might get a chance to see him. Anyway, with all these goings-on I doubt I'll be blogging much - perhaps the rest of the collective can take up the slack? (hint, hint)
     
    Mystery hits
    Unless my counter has gone bust I'm not quite sure how my average daily hits suddenly rose by 50. I've been too busy to write anything profound lately. But whatever the reason I'm thankful for it ...
     
    Postrel on Gore

    Virginia Postrel is back and she has a left brain but right wing critique of Gore's speech
     
    Left brain - right brain

    My score on the Hemispheric Dominance Inventory recommended by Quiggin and Parish:


    "You responded as a right brained person to 9 questions, and you responded as a left brained person to 10 questions. You seemed to be comfortable using strategies for both sides for the brain. Your preference may be situational and apparent mainly when stress in a factor. This does not necessarily mean that you are ambidextrous. However, you are on your way to becoming whole brained and will benefit from using study strategies useful for both sides of the brain. When you read the descriptions, look for new strategies to try. However, your learning style probably has components from both sides. Some of the traits associated with the left and right side of the brain are listed in the table. Not all of the traits will apply to you."



    As a matter of fact I am left handed in writing and ambidextrous in just about everything else.

    Thursday, September 26, 2002
     
    Warblogging
    Ken Parish and John Quiggin have a lot of discussion going on about labels. I'm not sure I'd agree with their characterisation of right wing bloggers as 'right brain' in the sense in which Quiggin uses it. I think that's a bit unfair. My style of blogging (when I have the time) is probably closer to Quiggin and Parish than some of the more popular warbloggers but the fact is we've each made a conscious decision to serve different markets, I suppose that's one way of putting it. It takes as much intelligence and skill to serve one market as it is to serve another - and some people like Steve Van Den Beste are exceptions in being capable of crossing over both quite well.

    What I'd really like to talk about the tiresomeness of labels being thrown around like warmonger, chickenhawk and peacenik. Let me put a personal spin on this.

    I remember vividly the first (and hopefully the only) Gulf War. I was in high school then and I was virulently pacifist (does that sound oxymoronic?) and anti-American -so of course I was against the Gulf War. I remember this was one of the few political issues which almost all the other high schoolers had an opinion on and I was quite in the minority which merely increased the virulence of my opposition and my propensity to have arguments with schoolmates.

    The sorts of things I believed then about the US decision to intervene are the sorts of silly things being said today about the Iraq war by the more thoughtless anti-war crowd - stuff like 'it's all about the oil'. I mean, really, the first Gulf War was really more about the oil than this current potential conflict which actually does have a lot going for it. Go listen thoughtfully to what Kissinger has to say about all this, hell, listen to what Kim Beazley has to say. Even if there is no Al Qaeda link with Iraq and even though I may think the risk from going to war is too great there is an intellectually respectable case for unilateral action which has to be acknowledged. Lately even that raving right winger Jennifer Hewett of the SMH thinks so. I grew out of the 'it's all about the oil' and 'the US is a big bully' nonsense years ago so I'm just not willing to give a second glance to anyone who has nothing but these to go by.

    By the same token, since this is the time of revelations with Gareth Parker revealing he voted Labor and all - let me reveal that right up to S11 I was close to being a pure isolationist on foreign policy. S11 and some of the morally repugnant responses to it made by the likes of Bob Ellis snapped me out of my delusions and forced me to take a stand.
    1) Even if the US military industrial complex had done bad and stupid things in the past (and who can deny that it hasn't?) this did not disentitle the US government from responding in some way to bring the perpetrators to justice and, yes, to take vengeance for a horrific crime.
    2) Even if the US military industrial complex had done bad and stupid things in the past, would the 'idealistic' response urged by some - namely pull out and withdraw and not respond - would that really have made things better or merely encouraged the terrorists even more? No. This really depends on whether one thought that so-called 'blowback' was the sole cause of S11 or whether there were mixed motives among the OBL camp. Wasn't it just as plausible that the stupid things that the US military industrial complex had done in the past quite obviously served as fodder which the OBL camp could use to justify their actions and that it served as much as an excuse for the OBL camp to engage in their own expansionism? What was with all the stuff OBL said about Saladin? In the end do you want to put faith in the 'idealistic' response at the expense of encouraging this Islamofascist expansionism?

    I imagine a critic of US foreign policy like Chris Hitchens, rational man that he was, thought the same things and came to similar conclusions. Unfortunately some of the rest of his tribe still hasn't moved on.

    So in conclusion what am I trying to say? I don't know - that I've been wrong before and am therefore too reluctant to be over-certain in case I am wrong again? That sounds like it...

    Wednesday, September 25, 2002
     
    Some people will never be satisfied
    Buchanan-groupie Justin Raimondo thinks that Al Gore is just a warmonger lite.
     
    Of psychics and genes
    Tex is, shall we say, a touch upset at Channel 10's debut of a programme of psychic crap:


    Fuck John Edward. Fuck James Van Cunt (or whatever his name is). Fuck Uri "bullshit is my life" Geller. Fuck Sylvia Browne. Fuck all you paranormalist liars and tricksters. Fuck all you scum who give them money. Fuck all you media dipshits who accept their lies for the sake of ratings. Fuck the lawyers who represent them. Fuck all you alien abduction and crop-circle dickheads. Fuck all you "repressed memory" liars.


    I agree with Tex's delicately expressed sentiments. Channel 10 once again contributes to the dumbing down of the Australian populace. What I'll be interested to know is how successful this programme actually will be. My theory is that there probably is some gene that predisposes people to religosity and various other manias for the supernatural and that the US's high belief rates and appetite for UFO/paranormal/angels tripe can probably be accounted for by the fact that, as PJ O 'Rourke once put it so memorably the US was settled by 'religious nuts with guns' who were too rabid to get along with their neighbours in Europe. Similarly the high rates of un-belief, irreverence for authority and plain sensible cynicism in Australia, can probably be accounted for by its good, down to earth convict stock consisting of various loud mouths and trouble makers who pissed off their social betters and got rewarded by a one way ticket.

    Tuesday, September 24, 2002
     
    Babies and ticket machines
    Paddy McG is back in good form in today's column with some perceptive words on the neverending 'fertility debate' and Malcolm Turnbull's contribution to it:


    Simply throwing money at women of child-bearing age will not work. Women are not like ticket machines where you put in money and out pops a baby. So while it is possible to endorse Turnbull's neo-feminist proposals for more flexibility of the workplace and a better deal for mothers generally, more money is in effect what he proposes.

    And he doesn't even cost his proposal for a single payment to mothers, regardless of their workforce status. Nor, while advocating, with considerable justice and force, the encouragement of stable marriages (if only we knew how - his church has forfeited its moral authority in matters of sexuality), does he face up to the fact that much of the present system of support for mothers is tantamount to a tax on marriage.


     
    Even a broken clock is right twice a day
    Ken Parish is concerned that he mostly agrees with Angela Shanhan's latest column which, aptly enough, is about the Toben case. Well, don't worry Ken - as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I mostly agree with it too even though I once described Mrs Shanahan as 'Dr Laura without the brains'. However what caught my eye even more was this brief snipe by Shanahan at blogs:


    ....it is a cliche to say that not just children but many journalists and commentators are affected by the dumbing down caused by using the internet – a problem of blogs, not dogs


    Hmm, methinks she has been reading some of the blogs that have been critical of her of late, and not taking them very well. All I can say I find 90% of Shanahan's columns dumber than my daily blog reading.
     
    Islamism and globalisation

    National Review is publishing excerpts from Roger Scruton's latest book, entitled 'The West and the Rest'. Here is a sample:


    Islamism is not a cry of distress from the "wretched of the earth." It is an implacable summons to war, issued by globetrotting middle-class Muslims, many of them extremely wealthy, and most of them sufficiently well versed in Western civilization and its benefits to be able to exploit the modern world to the full. These Muslims are products of the globalizing process, and Western civilization has so amplified their message that it travels with them around the world.

    It may be hard to sympathize with these spoiled and self-indulgent advocates of violence. But it is not hard to sympathize with the feelings upon which they depend for their following. Globalization, in the eyes of its advocates, means free trade, increased prosperity, and the steady erosion of despotic regimes by the growing demand for freedom. In the eyes of its critics, however, it means the loss of sovereignty, together with large-scale social, economic, and aesthetic disruption. It also means an invasion of images that evoke outrage and disgust as much as envy in the hearts of those who are exposed to them ...

    People in the West live in a public space in which each person is surrounded and protected by his rights, and where all behavior that poses no obvious physical threat is permitted. But people in Muslim countries live in a space that is shared but private, where nobody is shielded by his rights from communal judgment, and where communal judgment is experienced as the judgment of God. Western habits, Western morals, Western art, music, and television are seen not as freedoms but as temptations. And the normal response to temptation is either to give in to it, or to punish those who offer it. Many Muslim muhajiroun do both. Like Atta, they drink, gamble, and fornicate in the flesh-pots of America, while secretly plotting revenge against the thing that made these indulgences possible ...

    Globalization ...has brought into being a true Islamic umma, which identifies itself across borders in terms of a global form of legitimacy, and which attaches itself like a parasite to global institutions and techniques that are the by-products of Western democracy. This new form of globalized Islam is undeniably threatening, since it satisfies a hunger for membership that globalization itself has created.

     
    Misrepresentation
    Maybe the differences between us aren't so great after all. We are all adopting a cost/benefit methodology to decide whether sometimes censorship is justified. Jason and Heath (Heath to a greater degree) believe that child pornography sites should be banned. I go one step further and say that sites inducing in a proximate sense violence should be banned. I am not sure why my analogy to child porn has caused distress; I was merely using an extreme case to try to find out if Jason believed censorship was ever justified.
    I haven't seen the Toben website. I therefore don't know if I would support it being banned ie I am not sure if it was aidding and abetting/inducing/procuring others to commit crimes. If it did, I would find it as heinous as child porn sites.
    Presumably Jason is pro blocking Al Quaeda websites....

    Monday, September 23, 2002
     
    Comparing Child Porn and Racial Vilification laws

    Having logged on tonight to find Jason and Teresa slugging slugging it out over censorship – I find it hard to believe that the comparison with child porn was made at all. As Jason points out, the very production of child pornography involves a criminal act, whilst producing neo-Nazi and holocaust denial content, by itself, does not involve breaching anyones rights.

    Teresa then decides to argue that

    “I am against publication of child porn as it increases incentives to produce child porn. On the whole simulated child porn is likely to do the same thing (some may argue that it's a substitute but it is also a complement). How isn't banning a child porn site then analogous to banning a racial vilification site?”

    I’m with Jason that publication and production of child porn should be prohibited on the grounds that it’s production breaches the rights of the child. One could make an argument that using censorship laws (as opposed to criminal laws) to shut down child porn web sites is perhaps a more efficient way of removing those sites – but this ignores the fact that the bulk of child porn appears to be traded via means other than open and publicly accessible web sites.

    As for Toben, although he has some pretty stupid and nasty stuff to say, none of the content I browsed on the site seemed to be an imminent incitement to violence. It’s production , by itself, does not harm anyone (except very subjectively by making some people feel uncomfortable). The analogy with banning child porn is therefore a bit of a stretch and not really valid.
     
    The brains behind OBL
    Don't miss the New Yorker's long investigative piece on OBL's right hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
     
    Rejoinder to rejoinder

    If it is a crime already to incite hate that leads to violence then by all means prosecute offenders through these means with the evidentiary checks and balances. What does the publication of a Holocaust denial website have to do with all this? And why can't atheist websites similarly fall foul of vilification laws for such incitement against religion? With at least these evidentiary burdens people of different beliefs are less inclined to use vilification laws to have a go against each other. PS - if these provisions in the criminal law themselves go too far then that can hardly be seen as a justification for racial vilification law unless one is some sort of legal positivist.
     
    <surrejoinder!
    By permitting downloading of porn (which usually involves paying a fee) you are increasing incentives to produce porn. Hence they should both be illegal. It is a crime already to incite hate that leads to murder or other crimes. This is aiding and abetting. Hence you can ban the sites on those grounds. Present law does no more than ban aidding and abetting.
     
    Porn vs racial vilification

    A short riposte. Teresa writes:

    How isn't banning a child porn site then analogous to banning a racial vilification site? In both cases you are trying to stop these sites inciting crimes.

    The proximity between forcing children to engage in pornography and a child pornography site is obvious. One is an input into the other. This is a completely different issue from the proximity between a site containing speech that may fall under 'racial vilification laws' and the possibility that some of this speech may be tortious There is a danger of 'over-deterrence' of speech. There is no comparable over-deterrence of child porn argument or 'slippery slope' argument that puts a spanner in the works of such a ban because it does not involve a judge considering whether certain ideas or arguments have a 'social value' sufficient to justify not being banned. Not tampering with children is a fundamental constraint period without any need to consider the social value of the speech involved.

    Having said that I am not even prepared to endorse unreservedly laws against downloading of child porn (as opposed to laws against their production). I only said the principled case there was less open to slippery slope arguments comparable to those involving hate speech.

    The incitement analogy doesn't work. It shouldn't be a crime to incite hate. It should only be a crime to engage in violence to person and property and by extension to conspire in engaging in such violence and all I am saying is that vilification laws may only be justified on drawing a sufficient causal nexus from the crime of violence to the speech. However it is strongly plausible that the presumption that all content of a particular category should be presumed to fulfull such a causal nexus will amount to overkill. The ban on child porn based on a consumption causing production nexus is on othe other hand a sound one in principle.
     
    Porn again
    I am against publication of child porn as it increases incentives to produce child porn. On the whole simulated child porn is likely to do the same thing (some may argue that it's a substitute but it is also a complement). How isn't banning a child porn site then analogous to banning a racial vilification site? In both cases you are trying to stop these sites inciting crimes. Whether there is sufficient proximity between the site and the illegal conduct is a question of fact. Ideally you only ban those where there is that proximity. Of course this will have a marginal effect on freedom of speech but in my view the potential cost in terms of incitement merits this where the content of the site is sufficiently egregious. I don't think there's much more to be said on this topic
     
    Censorship continued

    Teresa again misses the point. Assuming she agrees with me that we are arguing censorship can only be justified as a means of deterring speech equivalent to the 'shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre' scenario (and if she doesn't agree with me then there is no common ground on which to argue this and she is not much of a liberal) then Australian Internet censorship may be enough of a nuisance to deter some conduct that may otherwise fall into this category. But at what expense? At the expense of over-deterrence - discouraging speech that does not fall into this category. But given that the US has a 1st amendment and other countries have more pro-free speech regimes then there is strong reason to doubt that whatever marginal activity of tortious speech (for want of a better word) is suppressed or prevented is worth all this even to bloggers like us. For instance, there have been a number of times when I have hesitated publishing a letter on my blog because I was afraid I would get in trouble with vilification laws.

    Child pornography is a silly and spurious comparison. The *production* of child porn involves more than just speech. One can then validly censor child porn but only as an adjunct to damaging the child porn industry (for instance I would be against censoring simulated child porn or erotica) without a 'slippery slope' or over-deterrence because child porn is clearly distinguishable *not* by content of its ideas but how it was produced. Let me get this straight again in case the point is missed:- the thinking and sharing of stupid and vile thoughts should not by itself be a crime.
     
    Censorship cont'd
    Censorship is more effective than tort as it can be effected by means of asking the website operator to delete/block the site.
    By raising the transaction costs associated with publication you reduce the activity.
    The arguments about multilateralism are codswallop: it is apparent that the US/Europe pretty much always get their way in any type of multilateral negotiation (otherwise they don't sign up).
    All the other arguments attributed to me by Jason are inaccurate. However, I don't agree in total freedom of speech. For example I am against the publication of child pornography.
     
    Censorship as second best?

    Teresa argues below that censorship may be a second best to tort because of evasion problems. However she ignores the fact that these same evasion problems apply to censoring the content of ideas. So it seems we are at least even. Toben will simply fnd another place to host his content. On enforceability grounds one is no better than the other. But creating a precedent for suppressing Internet sites based on the content of the ideas they host creates a whole host of problems not present in at least linking it to some test of causation. Thus there are explicit costs but little or no benefit. What additional marginal deterrence of speech that actually proves to be tortious are we going to get under this approach unless governments multilaterally agree to suppress speech so their national laws become enforceable? Is that the way you want to go? Do you want Singapore or China setting the standards of this multilateral approach?

    If that means some under-deterrence of tortious behaviour so be it. We will get under-deterrence anyway in the absence of the totally undesirable multilateral approach. Otherwise what Teresa is actually proposing is that the content of ideas be taken as prima facie proof that they cause incitement to violence, etc. People should have second thoughts if their route of thinking takes them down the Singaporean approaches, etc. I don't usually buy slippery slope arguments but they seem particularly applicable here. If this effective prima facie approach is sound then we may well apply it to mailing lists and email communications too.

    Ideally there should be no abridgement of speech - period - unless the behaviour can be slotted into the tort, contract or property categories - this creates a check against abuse of government process. And even in these cases free speech should trump tort, contract, property if the alternative is too draconian.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote:

    If it were left to me to decide whether we should have a government without a free press or a free press without a government, I would prefer the latter

    I agree without hesitation.
     
    Toben case
    Jason writes that speech leading to incitement to violence and disorder is appropriately punishable under tort rather than being censored/banned by the govt.

    However there can be substantial challenges in enforcing tort law where the impugned behaviour is published on the Net.

    For example, it may be difficult to identify the operator of a particular website; it can be difficult to enforce the law where the website operates in another jurisdication. Even where a case is won in court the website operator may have been set up as an impecunious shell company or it may be difficult to enforce a judgment for damages because it operates in another (faraway) jurisdiction.

    These challenges exist with tort law generally however they are greater when the internet is involved.

    These issues raise the question, is censorship a secondbest?

    Sunday, September 22, 2002
     
    Content Filter “Overzealous”

    Now here is a very interesting way to assess the suitability of content filters. EFF and OPG have released their latest research into content filters.

    “The research examined N2H2's Bess and SurfControl, two commonly Internet blocking software programs, on Internet searches of all topics from the state-mandated curriculums of California, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. “

    And what did they find? To be fair to the filter makers – with the least restrictive settings they blocked tens of thousands of pages (not bad out of half a million pages) and about 5% of search results. Mind you – the SMH article doesn’t report how effective at blocking out targeted content But put the filters on their most restrictive setting – presumably the most effective at blocking targeted content, and the filters blocked about 70% of search results for the school curriculums.

    Still, that the results based on searching on something as sanitized as a school curriculum. One has to wodner what they would be like if based on general use.
     
    Marr’s gender confusion

    From Crikey this week: writes a former editor:

    “I suspect Media watch's rather frantically discursive efforts (on camera and behind the scenes) to get Janet and other female columnists may be due to David Marr's not understanding women. If I were him I would be afraid, very afraid.”

    I guess we should all be afraid.

    TOP TEN THINGS THAT MEN UNDERSTAND ABOUT WOMEN

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    9.

    10.


     
    Ozone James, Not Greenhouse

    Shooting down hyper-ventilating ‘chicken little’ environmental scaremongers is a good sport, so long as you don’t shoot yourself in the foot along the way. In commenting on the improvements in the ozone layer, James Morrow concludes with:

    “Of course, this will surely do nothing to mollify the sky-is-falling doomsayers who are pushing for Australia and the U.S. to hand over a hunk of their GNP (or, more accurately, stop producing it) via the Kyoto Accords. After all, caviar isn't free.”

    Well no James it won’t, because Kyoto is all about greenhouse emissions, not the production and use of CFC’s.
     
    Tobin Case

    As Jason commented on earlier this week, Fredrick Tobin has received an order from the Federal Court to remove his web site. I have no sympathy for Tobin’s view, the guy is something of a kook in my mind. But kooks and cranks are part of the landscape in a democracy, but ordering Tobin’s web site be removed is just absurd.

    For starters, it probably won’t be long before his content pops up on some US web site – so the order is probably ineffective. In fact, it might even be counter-productive since it is likely to boost Tobin’s status and visibility - and encourage mirroring of his site.

    I’m with Jason on this one. I disagree with what he has to say, but I disagree more with censoring him.
     
    Saddam again, and again, and again...

    Then we had the latest recurrence of Saddam backing down and allowing ‘unconditional inspections’ , only to qualify this by saying that the inspections must respect Iraqi sovereignty and dignity. This is the same qualification and language they have used in the past to deny inspectors free and unfettered access to Iraqi military sites, including the ‘palaces’ of Saddam. Once again, I would recommend people pick up and read ‘Saddam Defiant’ by Richard Butler.

    What we are seeing currently is the same routine that Iraq and Saddam have been pulling since the late 90’s. Each time they get the west to step back from the abyss of war they generally buy themselves another six months or so in which to do whatever the hell they please.

    Paul Wright is close to the mark when he blogs:

    “Frankly, I don’t know. My preference is for the immediate start of the war, before the Iraqi scientists have a chance to enter a crash process to achieve one working nuke. I don’t give a damn for due process, and there is no obligation to respect the rights of the Iraqi regime. This is not a court of law, and most especially it is not a court of US law. There is no presumption of innocence. This guy has form. Any cop will tell you: if they’ve done it once, they’ll do it again.”

    Whilst I’d probably insist on some evidence, I agree with the sentiment. Saddam is going to be a lot easier to deal with now than when he actually gets some operational WMD (be they nuke, chemical or most frighteningly I think – biological).
     
    If Bush ruled the World.

    First off, George W Bush – does this man have the worlds worst sense of timing or what? For sure the SMH’s headline “Bush: How I will rule the world” was a bit sensationalist, but whilst you are trying to build an international coalition to stage military strikes against Iraq is probably not the best time to release a national security strategy that is reported to state that states that

    “"the President has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago” and that “"Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States."

    The release of this document is a propaganda feast for Saddam and his supporters, as well as for the anti-war movement in the West.
     
    Confederacy of loons
    It's amazing what sort of weird shit you can stumble onto on the Web when you're doing a Google search for something else. But these really take the cake.

    Firstly if you scroll down this link, it takes you down to an ad for something called the 'Sydney forum; which was held on 7-8 September 2002 at the Bardwell Park RSL Club of all places. And here's a sampling of some of the speakers and their topics:

    Global Meltdown
    Neil Baird
    NSW

    Charge D’affairs of the Republic of Iraq
    Dr Saad Al Samarai
    Iraq

    Neither Washington or Mecca
    but Australian Independence
    Dr Jim Saleam
    NSW.

    Australian Constitutional Reform
    – Common Law – GATS -
    Joe Bryant
    NSW

    The democratic right to firearms
    Bob Doring
    Queensland


    So we've got the Iraqi guy on some anti-American spiel, some gun nut from Queensland, the crank Joe Bryant of New World Order conspiracy theories fame ... but by far the most striking person on that list is of course the notorious Australian white supremacist with the strangely Arabic name Jim Saleam who used to be the leader of National Action (you gotta hand it to Aussie neo-Nazis, at least they're equal opportunity). Saleam, according to this article was jailed for 31/2 years in 1991 for possessing a firearm and organising a shotgun attack on the home of the African National Congress's Sydney representative. Now, I don't usually believe in guilt by association but any group or person who speaks on the same forum as Jim Saleam is someone I would want to stay away from. On this same website you also find a deranged rant by anti-globalist writer Antonia Feitz on 'Who are the real terrorists?" (US and Europe of course).

    And who is behind the website hosting all this? Alternative News Network is apparently the "publishing collective for the bio-economic region around Cairns, tropical north Queensland, Australia". It carries a mix of articles which would tend to appeal to the anti-globalist left set, including Ralph Nader columns, updates on anti-IMF rallies, something by a Greens activist and so on.

    Jim Saleam pops up at yet another ad for another speakers forum, this time in Inverell which was held in March 2002, sharing the platform with, among other speakers - the crank Joe Bryant; a lady from the League of Rights; "President of the British-Israel World Federation, a Christian association which found itself targeted for takeover by Australian neo-nazis" (this is weird considering he is speaking among people who are not far from being part of the latter); a Hemp activist; Neil Baird on 'the irrationality of economic rationalism'; an anti-vaccination campaigner and a writer for the New Dawn magazine.

    And how does this Inverell form describe itself? Here is a spiel:

    While stereotyped in the mainstream media as a far-right creature of the League of Rights, it is nothing of the sort. Environmentalists and alternative life-stylers mingle with constitutionalists, health and fitness proponents, various political party members and Local Government Councillors a healthy and representative cross-section of the Australian community.


    Yeah, right.

     

     
       
       

     

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