Catallaxy Files

polymathic pontification, bleeding heart economic rationalism and liberal secularist contrarianism

email: jasonsoon AT



  • Jason Soon
  • Heath Gibson
  • Jack Strocchi
  • Andrew Norton
  • Sarah Strasser
  • Teresa Fels


Intellectual heroes



  • Centrist
  • Leftish
  • Statist quo/flaming pink
  • Sui generis
    Saturday, February 08, 2003
    My Inner European...

    Bizare result. I wonder how muhc my choice of music and recognition of german phrases weighted my overall result.

    You are Bavarian
    You are a Bavarian.

    What's your Inner European?
    brought to you by Quizilla
    Another silly online quiz
    There's no hope for me anymore, no hope ...

    You are French
    You are a Parisian.

    What's your Inner European?
    brought to you by Quizilla
    Pete Townshend Child Pornography Case: Update

    The SMH has quite an interesting article today on how the child pornography web site (and its users) was identified, investigated and eventually prosecuted. After reading this article I’m taking the view that the users of this site deserve punishment. In this case, it is very obviously a case of demand driven exploitation. The web site operators were getting rich by taking in $US29.95 per month from subscribers and funnelling that money to producers of child pornography in Russia and Indonesia. The categories of child pornography listed in the article also indicate that this was the most serious kind of child exploitation. We are not talking here about a web site that sold images of teen models in skimpy outfits and “suggestive” poses - or recycled images from 60’s nudist magazines. We are talking about a web site that made money out of serious child abuse and fairly vile material.

    The web site operators ( a couple from the US) have been prosecuted and will be spending quite a lot of time in prison. Prosecution of customers is starting to take place around the world, using the list of subscribers as the basis for ongoing investigations. Given the type of material being distributed by this site, the sums of money involved, and the fact it should have been obvious to subscribers to the site that their demand was creating new victims – Townshend and the other subscribers to this site must surely receive some form of sanction for their behaviour.

    Usual Suspect – Usual Response

    Colin Powell has presented ‘new’ evidence that Iraq is not meeting its disarmament requirements. Although some of the examples are new (and some just recycled) , the behaviour they highlight is not. Decontaminating sites and shipping things out the back door is just more of the same behaviour that UNSCOM had been dealing with during the late 90’s. Perhaps the only new (and in my view quite disturbing) material seems to be the allegation that Iraq has developed a truck-mounted mobile bio-weapons production facility. This is an extremely serious allegation, and gives rise to a number of quite unpleasant possibilities.

    Firstly, the likelihood of UN inspectors being able to find one of these vehicles and get to it before it has moved on or ditched it’s load, is probably quite low. Probably the only way the world will ever know if these vehicles exist is when the wreckage of one turns up after a war.

    Secondly, if the trucks do exist, it is fairly likely they will be high on the target list for the US. But destroying these particular vehicles without also destroying ‘innocent’ trucks of the same type could prove to be problem. Then there is the question of what if the vehicles are in the process of manufacturing something unpleasant when they are destroyed? The contamination might not be widespread if the right weapon is used to destroy the truck, but the immediate area is surely going to need decontamination. Might the US try to capture one of these vehicles as evidence? It certainly would be damming evidence if it could be achieved, but is probably fraught with its own perils.

    How has the world reacted? Quite predictably. Russia, China and France, despite not seriously questioning the authenticity of the new information put forward, have argued the new information be given to the UN inspection teams, who should be given more time for inspections. In other words, the status quo remains despite what appears to be fairly damming evidence against Iraq.

    Meanwhile, North Korea has threatened pre-emptive strikes against the US and has ordered it’s generals to prepare for a victory against the US imperialists. Whilst I’m no expert in international politics, the US language on North Korea never seems to be anywhere near as strong as that direct against Iraq. That to me suggests that a lot more effort (has?, is? Will be?) going in to solving the Korean situation by means other than military action.

    Friday, February 07, 2003
    Idiot of the week
    The commentariat provide such rich fodder for blog posts. I therefore now announce the return of the semi-regular 'Idiot of the week' series that used to run on this blog. This week's winner is one Joseph Farah, proprietor of WorldNut Daily which features such intellectual luminaries as Anne (the right wing, better looking version of Michael Moore) Coulter. With such competition what did Mr Farah himself write to merit such an honour? To be precise, it's this piece on Clara Harris. Clara Harris is facing 'legal troubles' at the moment because she ran over her cheating husband a few times with her car. What would one expect a law-and-order-lovin' conservative like Mr Farah to say about that? Well, he says:

    Free Clara Harris. We need more women like her. Live like her.

    There is no accountability any more for the kind of wanton irresponsibility David "The Creep" Harris showed toward his wife and his children. There's no penalty any more for adultery, for abandonment of one's spouse and children. The state doesn't get involved – except to divide up the property and sort out custody issues. No one is punished.

    And that, I believe, is why America's families are crumbling at such an alarming rate.

    People are no longer accountable to anyone. They don't believe they are accountable to God. They don't believe they are accountable to their spouses. And they don't believe they are accountable to their children. They are not accountable to the state, as no-fault divorce laws have made certain.

    So congratulations to Joseph Farah for proposing honour killings as the solution to society's ills - you can see how well they work in the Middle East (well, at least one point in Mr Farah's favour is that he believes that women are as entitled to perform honour killings as men).

    Thursday, February 06, 2003
    More on the other war
    Bill Kauffman, the quirky paleo-con who by a miracle works in that citadel of neo-conservatism, the AEI, has a sensitive and nuanced review of the upcoming Civil War film, Gods and Generals. Some excerpts:

    Gods and Generals is a character study: not merely of men at war, but of specific men in a specific war. Maxwell follows four of the war’s best officers—Confederates Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and Joshua Chamberlain and Winfield Scott Hancock of the Union army—through three battles leading up to Gettysburg: First Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. His focus settles on Jackson, seemingly the most forbidding of the quartet, a strange, distant, severely religious lemon-sucking man of the western Virginia mountains ...

    Maxwell provides the fairest, most eloquent exposition of the Southern point of view ever presented on film—and yet as counterpoint we have always Joshua Chamberlain, the fighting scholar of the 20th Maine and the conscience of the movie, reminding us that black-skinned Americans are being held as chattel. “I do question a system that defends its own freedom while it denies it to others,” Chamberlain tells his brother, and here we have the paradox of the CSA.

    Contra Chamberlain, General Jackson frames the war as a question of competing patriotisms: “Though I love the Union, I love Virginia more.” He explains to his Shenandoah Valley volunteers at the war’s outset: “Just as we would not send any of our soldiers to march in other states and tyrannize other people, so will we never allow the armies of others to march into our state and tyrannize our people.” Jackson describes the fight as a conflict between the industrial North and the agrarian South. Defeat means not just the liberation of slaves; it would augur “the triumph of commerce, banks, and the factory.” ...

    Jackson’s relationship with his cook, Jim Lewis, a freeman of color, is rich and unsentimentalized. They shake hands upon meeting—Jackson calls him “Mister”—and if the times leave no question as to Lewis’s social subordination, Christian morality has a way of confounding matters. As the men pray on a winter’s eve, Lewis offers an impromptu petition: “How is it Lo’d, can you ’splain sumpin’ to dis ol’Virginy man? How is it a good Christian man like some folks I know can tolerate dey black brothers in bondage? How it is Lo’d, dat dey don’t jes break dem chains?” The tragedy of American politics is that the South hadn’t an answer.

    I'm really looking forward to this movie, as I am to The Gangs of New York, which is also civil war related.

    Meanwhile the Lew Rockwellites fire yet another shot in the Civil War war with another hatchet piece vilifying Lincoln (and incidentally directed at a couple of articles which appear in the same issue of the American Enterprise magazine with Kauffmann's review) and playing the 'moral equivalence' trick against the North. Rockwell also links to this silly piece by self-proclaimed libertarian Joseph Sobran which does a hatchet job on Martin Luther King starting with this quite extraordinary statement:

    King spoke for people who were not so much oppressed as humiliated; and though the two things ought not to be confused, humiliation is sometimes harder to bear than oppression and breeds more bitter feelings.

    Yeah, so on the one hand the Confederate nostalgists on Lew Rockwell (a site which is an absolute disgrace to the libertarian movement) say the North was as bad as the South's slaveholding because the North had segregation back in the 19th Century while on the other hand the resident Holocaust revisionist and MLK-hater on Lew Rockwell claims that segregation wasn't oppressive, it was just 'humiliating'.
    A whole Lott of nothing?
    Conservatives are turning against John Lott, including Michelle Malkin. I'm not a big fan of her work but kudos to her for admitting the following

    Some Second Amendment activists believe there is an anti-gun conspiracy to discredit Lott as "payback" for the fall of Michael Bellesiles, the disgraced former Emory University professor who engaged in rampant research fraud to bolster his anti-gun book, "Arming America." But it wasn't an anti-gun zealot who unmasked Rosh/Lott. It was Internet blogger Julian Sanchez, a staffer at the libertarian Cato Institute, which staunchly defends the Second Amendment. And it was the conservative Washington Times that first reported last week on the survey dispute in the mainstream press.

    In an interview Monday, Lott stressed that his new defensive gun use survey (whose results will be published in the new book) will show similar results to the lost survey. But the existence of the new survey does not lay to rest the still lingering doubts about the old survey's existence.

    The media coverage of the 1997 survey data dispute, Lott told me, is "a bunch to do about nothing." I wish I could agree.

    Wednesday, February 05, 2003
    Get over it, boy
    More than a century after the Civil War and Lew Rockwell publishes what might be its 10,000th whinge about the 'War of Northern Aggression'. And some people like to accuse blacks of playing the victimology game.

    Note how the author desperately tries anything to smear the North and thereby play the 'moral equivalence' game:

    ,,, many Northern states, primarily those that entered the union under the auspices of the Northwest Ordinance, had restrictions on black migration, voting rights, property ownership, and other rights of citizenship. If you were a free black in the 1850’s you wouldn’t be allowed to move to Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana, and as late as 1868 voters in New York turned down a measure to extend voting rights to free blacks. The hypothesis that the Union army went to war to free the slaves is damaged by the fact that many of the states from which the soldiers came had in place discriminatory regimes that rivaled those in the slave states for their oppression of blacks. For example, slavery was against the law in Indiana and Illinois; however, a complex system of indentured servitude made slavery a de facto – rather than de jure – phenomenon in the Ohio River states of the Old Northwest during the years leading up to the war.

    So the fact that they weren't racial liberals make them as bad as slaveowners? Hell, there weren't too many racial liberals in the South in the 20th century for a while. As for equating indentured labour with slavery - this sounds more Marxist than Misesian, which is what the Lew Rockwellians profess to be (though Mises would turn in his grave to be associated with them).

    True, the majority of abolitionists were not racial liberals. And the war was fought for a mixture of motives, like all wars are fought. Lincoln meanwhile was a wily politician who had to say different things to different people. Lincoln originally thought the best solution after emancipation was to persuade the freed slaves to go back to Africa. But how exactly is this as bad as owning someone? What about the underground trains? What about the Northeners who risked their lives campaigning against slaveholders trying to recapture their 'property'? And in fact there were some Northern elites who were both abolitionists and racial liberals - the great Oliver Wendell Homes Jr thought that minstrel shows were degrading towards blacks and Jane Addams strongly disapproved of that infamous Klan-glorifying movie, Birth of a Nation - political correctness in the 19th and early 20th century for Chrissake' - read the first few chapters of this.

    Let's face it, Confederate nostalgists, the society of your forefathers was an ignoble, immoral, Luddite, lazy and decadent society (one which held the work ethic in contempt ironically because of slavery) - the only reason it could afford its famed 'graces' was that those with 'graces' didn't need to do any work (busy people are less polite), then you got whupped in the ass by those supposedly effete Yankees, then when they left you were so piss-scared that your ex-slaves might take revenge that you instituted segregation. Then your cracker ass got whupped yet again by the civil rights bills. Get over it, boy.
    International gun control
    Just a few clarifications re Heath's post (see below).

    Firstly I am not and never will be a pacifist. Rather I consider myself a pessimistic realist (as all realists should be). I fear the consequences of a war with Iraq in terms of both the willingness and capacity of the US to rebuild Iraq after a war and the possible effects on the region. Remember, Iraq has never been a real country. In the event of the fall of Saddam, US plans to keep the patchwork together had better be very good. The majority of the population are Shiites who have been lorded over by Sunnis for a long time. Some of these Shiites are possibly connected with Al Qaeda, some are funded by Iran. Then there are Kurds in Iraq whose fate is intertwined with Kurds in Turkey. If Kurds in Iraq want their own Kurdistan then Kurds in Turkey will want one too. If the US and its allies go to war, I wish them a resounding victory because that is a necessary condition that the joint won't in the long term disintegrate into civil war and possibly fighting over the remains, including the remains of whatever WMDs there are.

    And we haven't considered the rest of the region yet. Those who would go to war if the UN said so have been ridiculed unjustly as being inconsistent. It's not a matter of inconsistency but prudence. I think there is an arguable case that at least if there was UN authorisation the Arab Street (and related Muslim street) would be less inclined to revolt violently and ovethrow the (relatively) friendly secular regimes in the Middle Eastthat we currently deal with, or at least creating enough chaos for radicals to seize power. Perceptions and propaganda matter. As an old fashioned rule of law person, I also think that doing things through the proper institutional channels matters. Thus UN authorisation may matter and make a difference for this reason alone. Is the fear of the Arab & Muslim Street revolting a justifiable one? Think Pakistan falling into the hands of radical Islamists.

    Of course one should also be pessmistic about the unchecked consequences of WMD proliferation. I accept that and it's funny many on the anti-war Left think this isn't a big deal or worse, that it is a sinister plot by the US. I thought the Left supported gun control? Well, think of this as international gun control (this is an idea I owe to Jack Strocchi) - there is a strong in-principle case for someone enforcing this whether it be the UN (preferably) or the US (if the UN really is piss-weak). In principle I think this (as opposed to idealistic visions of liberating every oppressed soul) is a defensible grounds for intervention and doesn't lead to any great problems (as the 'liberation principle' would) and my cautious scepticism of the need for invasion is solely based on whether we have considered the most efficient and least costly means of 'international gun control'. Furthermore I would also be prepared to contemplate invasion on provision of evidence of an Al Qaeda connection and on a lower standard of proof (on the balance of probabilities) than for the WMD issue ('beyond reasonable doubt') because the consequences of letting the former misconduct go unpunished are arguably much greater than simply some diffuse aim to obtain WMD as insurance.

    Now another clarification - I find none of the major anti-war arguments being trumpeted to be compelling. They seem opposed to the war for the wrong reasons. Furthermore I find the stance taken by the ALP, Greens and Democrats to be shameful and nauseating - essentially their opposition as it now stands boils down to playing on the fears of domestic terrorism for doing what might be the right and prudent thing in the long run to do i.e. let's keep our distance from our allies the US so the radical Islamists will go after them but leave us alone. Purely on grounds of national self-interest this is very short term thinking because the threat of terrorism might be greater in future without international gun control of the sort discussed here (whether through containment and pressure or invasion). On grounds of national self-interest the argument also seems to boil down to 'we should ignore any long term considerations in our foreign policy if in the short term it means that radical Islamists in other countries make threats against us - we should arse lick the radical Islamists in other countries regardless of the long term consequences of such arse licking ' Quislings and isolationists! This is not an anti-war crowd I want to have anything to do with.
    The Almost Inevitable War Against Iraq

    It’s been a while since my last post, but thanks to the purchase of a new notebook PC, I hope to be able to post a bit more regularly by blogging on the train to and from work. To get back in to the swing of things, a post on the looming war with Iraq and an explanation of why I am not quite the pacifist that Jason is.

    So where do I stand on the issue? In short, I am a reluctant supporter of war with Iraq. Clearly it is preferable that Iraq be ‘disarmed’ via the inspections process and that the situation be resolved in a manner that doesn’t involve another Gulf War. And clearly it is also preferable that if military action against Iraq does become necessary, that this action is condoned by the UN.

    But we live in a world where it is not always possible to have things go how we would prefer them to go. That being the case, military action may indeed be necessary and thus I am a reluctant supporter of miliary action for two reasons.

    Firstly, sooner or later, someone has to tell Saddam that time is up. Saddam has had twelve years in which to destroy and declare Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The process has dragged out because Iraq has not ‘declared’ it’s arsenal. It has dragged out because the Iraqi regime has made it necessary for the UN teams to become inspectors looking for new evidence, rather than simply verifiers of Iraq’s compliance. On this topic I would recommend Richard Butlers book, Saddam Defiant, which documents at length the sort of procrastination and political manoeuvring that Iraq engaged in up to the end of UNSCOM in 1998.

    Since that time it seems to have been more of the same. All this time, the Iraqi people have suffered under the UN blockade and sanctions. Yes – there will be a loss of life if (when) military action comes. But there will also continue to be loss of life if the sanctions continue. In other words, ‘do nothing’ is hardly a costless solution.

    The second reason I am a reluctant supporter of military action is that we are dealing here with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), rather than conventional weapons. Where we only dealing with Iraq’s conventional weapons arsenal it might be sufficient to say that “substantially disarmed” is close enough to “completely disarmed”. But the point is, we are not dealing with conventional arms here.

    The whole point of a WMD is that you don’t need many of them in order to be able to cause massive casualties. When you are dealing with weapons that cause thousands to tens of thousands of casualties from a single warhead, I’m of the view that near enough just isn’t good enough. A peaceful disarmament is preferable to a military solution, but only if it completely disarms Iraq of its WMD and WMD capability.

    What about the role of the UN in all this? Assuming Iraq continues to procrastinate and play “hide and seek”, then I see UN sanctioned military action as the only option that doesn’t lead to the UN becoming more of a farce.

    If Saddam is allowed to continue to stall the disarmament process, this sends a signal that the UN really is just so much hot air – with no will to enforce compliance on rogue states. Similarly, if the USA-UK alliance proceeds with military action without UN approval, the UN will again be humiliated as it will (most likely) stand aside and watch the USA-UK alliance invade Iraq against it’s wishes. Whilst France, Russia and China are opposed to the USA-UK war, it is hard to see them intervening militarily to protect Iraq.

    So unless Saddam gets an ‘A+’ on his report card from Mr Blix, the UN must authorise military action. The time for talk is fast running out.

    Tuesday, February 04, 2003
    Memo to British Muslims: Get yourselves better clerics:

    THERE were renewed calls for the deportation of Abu Hamza al-Masri yesterday after he said that Allah had destroyed the shuttle because it was a “trinity of evil” against Islam.
    The militant cleric said that God had destroyed the Columbia because it was carrying American Christians, an Indian-born Hindu and an Israeli Jew. He added that the craft’s explosion was a message from God because the first Israeli in space, Ilan Ramon, a former fighter pilot, was killed over an area of Texas called Palestine.
    The tiger and its spots
    The ever-vigilant AIJAC Review takes issue with the claim that Libya is no longer a terrorist state. Also it's worth pointing out that the New Age nutjobs at New Dawn magazine are devotees of Gaddafi (scroll down their links). One day someone has to write a thesis about the links between Occult/UFO enthusiasts and far Right-far Left convergence politics.
    Flirting with the far Right
    I'm cautiously sceptical about the need to go to war with Iraq but when Saddam's crony in Canberra, Saad Al-Samarai issues a blunt threat to Australia then I feel it's my obligation to do a hatchet job on him. Of course anyone with any sense already knows almost everyone associated with Saddam's regime is no angel - in my case I accept that and argue that Al Qaeda is to Hitler as Saddam is to Stalin - i.e. a war with Saddam is a waste of bullets compared to priorities even though he's evil. (In fact I think the WW2 analogy is apt in more ways than one - for one thing, a defeat of Saddam may spell a victory for those forces closest to Al Qaeda). Still it's worth reminding some people from time to time about simple truths such as why Saad isn't someone you should hold in high esteem.

    I've blogged on this before but suffice to say if the company one keeps is a determinant of one's credibility then this says it all (scroll down the link):

    The second annual Sydney Forum

    Venue Earlwood- Bardwell Park RSL Club.
    Hartill and Law Avenue Bardwell Park,
    right at Bardwell Park Railway Station.

    Plenty of Car parking.

    Saturday and Sunday 7 – 8 September 2002, next weekend.

    Speakers. Saturday:

    Global Meltdown
    Neil Baird

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

    Neither Washington or Mecca
    but Australian Independence
    Dr Jim Saleam

    Australian Constitutional Reform
    – Common Law – GATS -
    Joe Bryant

    The democratic right to firearms
    Bob Doring

    Speakers Sunday:

    The Un and New World Order tyranny
    Doug Giddings:
    South Australia

    The crime of the century
    Telling the truth about High Place corruption
    Raymond Hoser:

    Empowering the citizen against the State
    Malcolm McClure

    A new Defence Policy for Australia
    Wayne Van Blitterswyk

    Some of Saad's co-speakers should sound familiar - here is a profile of Jim Saleam, founder of National Action, and Wayne Van Blitterswyk is the brother and collaborator of one John Van Blitterswyk (the website on which this testimony appears says it all).
    Taki in trouble
    The despicable Spectator columnist Taki has fallen foul of UK's anti-racial vilification laws because of comments he made in a recent piece about West Indians. Though I am against anti-racial vilification laws as a matter of principle, I can't say I feel sorry for the tasteless, thuggish scumbag. And being opposed to such laws doesn't mean being against private sanctions - the Spectator should have sacked him long ago.

    Sunday, February 02, 2003
    The space shuttle tragedy
    Why has this garnered so much worldwide attention? Well, because as Glenn Reynolds puts it:

    It's not that astronauts' lives are worth more than those of anyone else; it's what they do, and what it stands for

    Remember, the astronauts came from all over the globe too.

    In tribute to the deceased and their mission let me excerpt what is possibly Ayn Rand's finest piece of writing - her piece on the Apollo 11 mission. It may not sound very PC in an age which has regressed to primitivism and atavism in its many aspects (the wider acceptance of vulgar postmodernism, Luddism, radical environmentalism, religious fundamentalism, anti-globalisation) but that's not the fault of the writing:

    The fundamental significance of Apollo 11’s triumph is not political; it is philosophical; specifically, moral-epistemological.

    The meaning of the sight lay in the fact that when those dark red wings of fire flared open, one knew that one was not looking at a normal occurrence, but at a cataclysm which, if unleashed by nature, would have wiped man out of existence — and one knew also that this cataclysm was planned, unleashed, and controlled by man, that this unimaginable power was ruled by his power and, obediently serving his purpose, was making way for a slender, rising craft. One knew that this spectacle was not the product of inanimate nature, like some aurora borealis, or of chance, or of luck, that it was unmistakably human — with “human,” for once, meaning grandeur — that a purpose and a long, sustained, disciplined effort had gone to achieve this series of moments, and that man was succeeding, succeeding, succeeding! For once, if only for seven minutes, the worst among those who saw it had to feel — not “How small is man by the side of the Grand Canyon!” — but “How great is man and how safe is nature when he conquers it!”

    That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt — this was the cause of the event’s attraction and of the stunned numbed state in which it left us. And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being — an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.




    < Home  |  Archives