Saturday, November 16, 2002

Why Do I Do This?

Saturday, 16 November 2002

It's OK, this isn't a major existential crisis - it's just that while I'm in a more or less serious reflective mood, I thought I'd tackle Gary Sauer-Thompson's suggestion that blogging is creating a new form of public intellectual. I'm not sure that I'm all that happy with the mantle myself - I suspect that if I start taking the idea seriously, I might end up writing silly twaddle explaining baby-boomers' poor saving habits in terms of the big themes of Freudian psychoanalyis: sex and death. I think there are more immediate, economic causes for that phenomenon - to give you a hint, I don't think too many Germans were putting their money into term deposits and superannuation funds during the days of the Weimar Republic.

So I'm generally content with the mantle of "hobby-satirist": it's a useful personal reminder that under no account should I start doing this for the money. I did that with my previous hobby of computer programming and it took a lot of the pleasure out of it - especially when I discovered that quite a few of the people I ended up working with (and cleaning up after) didn't give a rat's arse about the quality of their work, as long as the quality of the pay cheque was up to scratch. I'll admit that satire is an unusual hobby, but it's a lot more fun than collecting stamps and cheaper than building model railways. Of course I may not be a particularly good satirist - but hell, there are probably a few stamp collectors out there who are quite happy with albums full of worthless Hungarian swaps. I won't object if this self-indulgence turns me into a public intellectual. Right now, I'm happy that it's being recognised as satire - it's a good beginning.

A Saturday Allegory

Saturday, 16 November 2002

The fox knows many things but they are small things; the badger knows only one thing but it is a great thing.

I can't remember where I read this beautiful aphorism about knowledge and the different forms it may take. The beauty is perhaps a little meretricious since the aphorism is incomplete: it omits the jackass whose head is full of nonsense.

The jackass is a sad creature - like the fox it knows only small things; like the badger it knows only the one thing. It is ugly, noisy and stupid and knows, in the core of its being, that it is ugly, noisy and stupid. And that is all it really knows. The rest of its ideas are pleasant nonsense to distract it from this unpleasant knowledge.

Often, the nonsense that the jackass thinks pleasant displeases both foxes and badgers. The fox, with its knowledge of the many small things which are known as facts dislikes its constant braying of myths and legends. The badger with its knowledge of the big thing known as truth loathes its outright lies.

Sometimes, foxes and badgers alike are provoked into confronting the jackass with the unpleasant self-knowledge it strives so hard to ignore. The jackass will respond with a sneer and tell them that the problem is theirs, that they only say these things because they resent the superior wisdom of the jackass. Only I, says the jackass, have the courage to speak the unpleasant facts the the foxes prefer to ignore and the real truth the badgers refuse to acknowledge. And for a moment it thinks itself proud when it is merely vain.

There are many jackasses in the world - some would say too many- but they do have a purpose and a function, which they carry out admirably. That purpose is to satisfy themselves for in all other respects they are useless.

Corrigendum: John Quiggin has written to inform me that the quote comes from Isaiah Berlin, and that in the original it was a hedgehog, not a badger. I think I'll stick with the badger, but you're free to read it as "hedgehog" if you're picky about such things.


Saturday, 16 November 2002

This morning's Age reports that the shadow Leader of the Opposition, John Howard

has defended the right of people to burn the Australian flag, saying that while repugnant, it was a matter of free speech.

National Party leader John Anderson disagrees:

Mr Anderson wants to change the Crimes Act to outlaw burning or desecrating the flag. He says this would not limit free speech because laws already exist making it a crime to vandalise or deface war memorials.

With my wide ranging ignorance of the law, I don't know whether Mr Anderson is correct in his assertion that there are laws making it a crime to vandalise or deface war memorials, although we do have plenty of run-of-the-mill laws prohibiting acts such as throwing bricks through your neighbours' windows or "tagging" their front doors. Still, with the generally acknowledged centrality of the ANZAC legend to Australia's sense of national identity it wouldn't surprise me to discover that there's a special law to protect all those concrete statues of carabinieri that we fondly pretend are statues of diggers. But I do think that Mr Anderson's suggestion that a ban on flag burning is pretty much the same as laws protecting public property is a little disingenuous.

I'm pretty indifferent on the subject of flag burning most of the time - if people want to promote their cause by doing something that's guaranteed to alienate most of the population, that's their business. The only times it really riles me is when flags are burnt in support of the causes I favour. I suspect Martin Heidegger might have had similar problems with the phenomenon of book-burning but that's a whole other issue I don't want to get into right now.

Friday, November 15, 2002

I Seem to Have Missed Something Here

Friday, 15 November 2002

The agreement between the US and Australian governments to get together in about 3 months time to start negotiating a Free Trade agreement over the next two years hasn't exactly been big news in the Ozblogosphere. Apart from Tim Dunlop no-one seems to have commented much on the issue at all. I'm not exactly in a hurry either, given the long time frames involved. While the possum features in several US regional cuisines, by the time I get to write a post hailing our new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as a breakthrough for our fledgeling possum processing industry it will be probably be too late. Two years is a long time to try to sustain a running joke.

Shadow Prime Minister Simon Crean's comments about the coming negotiations on AM the other day caught me entirely flat-footed. Mr Crean remarked:

Well, they have taken a lot of time and we've seen no details so I will be interested in today's announcement as to just what the detail is.

What I've consistently said in relation to this is that any agreement has to be comprehensive, it has to include agriculture for example, and we will be wanting to see out of today's announcement whether it is comprehensive, whether it does include agriculture.

Obviously I've missed another major event in the world of politics yet again. I had no idea that the National Farmers Federation had registered as a trade union and affiliated with the ALP. Still, I suppose that might explain the ugly demarcation dispute they had with the Maritime Union of Australia a few years ago. It's the only explanation that I can find for this insistence that the FTA has to cover agriculture - as usual the ALP is looking after its trade union backers. Of course where this leaves the National Party is anybody's guess, although blind-sided and without a constituency would probably be close to the mark.

Civilisation Under Threat (Again)

Friday, 15 November 2002

According to this report in Australian IT, level-headed Star Wars producer Rick McCallum has a pretty clear perspective on the next major threat to western civilisation as we know it: big budget movie production, the cornerstone of Western culture faces a total collapse in 3 years unless something is done about the growing threat of international consumer extremism and peer-to-peer file sharing. Rick told a Melbourne audience that

The drive to protect movie copyright needed to be "as concentrated an international event as the war on terrorism"

Unless this international effort is forthcoming, Rick warns that the Movie industry could suffer the same drastic loss of revenues as the Music industry - in other words movie makers might actually start to make real losses instead of the paper losses that turn box-office smashes into apparent commercial failures. It might even spell the end of Star Wars as we know it, so instead of the full 9 episode series originally planned by George Lucas we would have to settle for a curtailed 6 episode version of the epic tale - which would be rather like Wagner croaking midway through composing his Ring cycle, leaving us with only Das Rheingold, Siegfried and the first act of Die Walkure, with no Gotterdammerung to tie up all the loose ends.

Obviously Australia needs to get behind this coming major international effort ...

Sorry about the interruption. I have to go now - there's a couple of blokes at the door who say they're from the Business Software Association of Australia with something called an "Anton Piller order".

It's All Kirner's Fault, Got It?

Friday, 15 November 2002

When I first read the ABC On-Line News report of Victorian shadow Premier Robert Doyle's sacking of his shadow treasurer Robert Dean yesterday, I was immediately tempted by the humorous opportunities presented by a senior Liberal politician who forgets to enrol to vote in his own electorate and so cannot stand for election but Robert Corr got there first - the bastard!

Ewin Hannan's report in today's Age makes it clear that this is not quite the simple story of a politician brought undone by a small but all-too-human "oversight" or party mismanagement as Victorian treasurer John Brumby suggested. Hannan provides a possible explanation for Dr Dean's "oversight":

Former Liberal premier Jeff Kennett said yesterday Dr Dean had deliberately sought to deceive Gembrook voters by claiming to live in the electorate. In fact, Mr Kennett said, Dr Dean had lived in Hawthorn for a decade.

"Robert Dean has lived in Hawthorn for 10 years. The question is, did he ever move out to Gembrook and what proof is there that he did," he said on his 3AK radio program.

The answer apparently is none - with one long-time local resident saying that he had never seen Dr Dean in the street where his rented pied-a-terre was located. Of course we shouldn't read too much into this - the life of a politician can be a demanding one and it is quite possible that despite every good intention, Dr Dean was simply unable to find time out from his busy round of political engagements to introduce himself to his new neighbours. Or it may be that outside public life, Dr Dean is someone who prefers to keep himself to himself, content with "the quiet enjoyment of the property" prescribed as the proper behaviour of tenants in most standard rental agreements.

Very sensibly, both shadow Premier Robert Doyle and Dr Dean are refusing to allow this farce minor setback to distract them from the main game, which to Mr Doyle is his "campaign to hold Labor accountable on November 30" and to Dr Dean is to protect Victoria from the awful fate of a repeat of the Cain-Kirner years.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Dissecting John Ray

Thursday, 14 November 2002

Visitors to John Jay Ray's site Dissecting Leftism will be aware that Dr Ray is currently writing a monograph on the sociological and psychological origins of Leftism. It would be easy to dismiss this as an extended ad hominem attack on Dr Ray's political opponents, however after a little reflection on Dr Ray's thesis that Leftism is associated with particular personality traits and social factors I have begun to wonder whether Dr Ray's analysis of the relationship between psychology and sociology factors and political belief doesn't also apply to conservatism. Dr Ray clearly identifies himself as a conservative, which in my view makes him an ideal initial case study for such an inquiry.

Admittedly the available data - mainly consisting of Dr Ray's personal web pages, his articles in Front Page and his several blogs - is a little scanty and selective. On the other hand Dr Ray's blog postings on issues such as the relationship between race and IQ show a commendable freedom from what some psychologists call "impression management": the tendency to adjust our behaviour or language to conform to what we believe are socially accepted norms. Dr Ray's willingness to be so open about his beliefs should yield a wealth of psychological and sociological insight into the particular brand of conservatism he espouses.

Such an inquiry has an obvious social value: if Dr Ray is correct in his belief that Leftism is the result of pathological personality traits then a study of the healthy conservative personality has the potential to yield insights which may eventually lead to an effective therapy for Leftism, similar to the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which is used in the treatment of clinical depression. For psychological therapy to be effective, the practitioner must have a clear notion of what the healthy mind is - there is no point trying to cure the unhealthy mind if one does not have a clear understanding of one's eventual goal. Dr Ray is obviously in possession of a healthy conservative mind which warrants serious psychological scrutiny.


Thursday, 14 November 2002

What do you do if you're a spammer trying to attract new clients? Stupid question really - and thanks to a recent E-Mail from I can provide a suitably stupid answer. Here's some edited text of the E-Mail I let slip through Mail Washer:

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Times must be really tough out there in the spammeries.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Stop Laughing, this is Science, Dammit!

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

A visit to my latest addition to the blog roll, Dissecting Leftism, led via a circuitous route involving a Google search to the Web Site of Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of the University of Ulster. Professor Lynn has done extensive research on the correlation between race and IQ - here is a brief excerpt from his own summary of his distinguished career of research in this area:

My major discovery is that the Oriental peoples of East Asia have higher average intelligence by about 5 IQs points than Europeans and peoples of European origin in the United States and elsewhere. I first published this finding in 1977 in a paper on the intelligence of the Japanese. In subsequent years the high Oriental IQ has been confirmed in numerous studies of Oriental peoples in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Singapore and the United States.

In 1991 I extended my work on race differences in intelligence to other races. I concluded that the average IQ of blacks in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 70. It has long been known that the average IQ of blacks in the United States is approximately 85. The explanation for the higher IQ of American blacks is that they have about 25 per cent of Caucasian genes and a better environment.

Professor Lynn's books include Dygenics in which he "showed that the eugenicists were right in their belief that modern populations have been deteriorating genetically in respect of health, intelligence and the personality trait of conscientiousness" and two sequels - Eugenics "considers what measures could be taken to rectify this and discusses the genetic future of mankind" and IQ and the Wealth of Nations (with Tatu Vanhanen of the University of Helsinki) which "considers the problem of national differences in wealth and economic growth" and shows "that national IQs are strongly related to national incomes and rates of economic growth".

It's well known that a little learning is a dangerous thing - but what Professor Lynn has achieved with a lot of learning is something that makes anti-intellectualism almost respectable.

Commonwealth of Australia (in Receivership)

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

This week's biggest item of business news is the decision of HIH's liquidators, KPMG to start action in the ACT Supreme Court seeking $5.6 billion dollars in damages from the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Commonwealth Government. In a masterly piece of understatement, The Canberra Times says

This is one of the biggest civil claims in Australian legal history. The ramifications for government coffers, should the Commonwealth be found liable, would be huge.

Obviously, with so much of the operating capital of Commonwealth of Australia Inc on the line, we can expect the government to mount a pretty strong legal defence against this suit. However, I think the government would be remiss not to adopt a fall-back position and a quick call to Bondie's mate, Swiss businessman Jurg Bollag probably wouldn't go astray.

Let Them Eat ...

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

The ABC reports that Immigration Minister Phil Ruddock has flagged the possibility of closing the Woomera Detention Centre and moving detainees to the new Baxter centre in Port Augusta, where women and child detainees may be allowed to live in the community with children attending local schools. Port Augusta's Mayor, Joy Baluch, is reported to be opposed to this idea.

I suspect that it will be hard to persuade Ms Baluch to drop her opposition to the scheme, if this comment, reported in the Age on March 25 this year, is anything to go by:

"If the bastards can't look after them at Woomera, we don't want them here," she [Ms Baluch] said yesterday. "I'd like to wipe my arse on the lot of them."

A Few More of My Favourite Sites

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

I'm sure that lovers of natural history will enjoy this short on-line documentary on The Pygmy Shrew.

This on-line game is a must for cricket fans everywhere.

And finally, the now defunct SatireWire reports on a uniquely Australian solution to our need to take a more prominent role in world affairs.

Normal ridicule will be resumed as soon as possible.

You Call This a Comments Facility?

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

Since today is shaping up as a slow satire day, I thought I would take the opportunity to catch up on my E-Mails - all one of them. Apropos my brief flirtation with debunking Greenie pseudo science, Mr RM writes:

G'day Gummo,

great ' title,low on vitriol, literate,with normally high guffaw quotient...but before you digress into self-congratulation over the whaling segment, best take yourself in hand. Maybe it was the mention of number-crunching to a computer programmer that disabled the good ship Potemkin's satirical rudder. Gawd knows we need someone to send up sanctimonious decimally-challenged Greenies...I even bought a Kingwood once with a 'land rights for gay whales' bumper sticker myself....but,hey, 'malnourished' Japanese by the million?

Perhaps your new editorial direction should be to send yourself up. You know ...Samurai says to Empress Mori Antoinuki...Your Highness...the masses humbly request that they riot...(if that's ok with you)...they're starving.... 'Let them eat whale steak!'...But that's why they're starving....since those dewy eyed, hypocritical, culturally insensitive,anti-human,cattle munching Westerners deified the krill-wasting, shark food,cockroaches of the ocean as environmentalist icon...

O.K.,I know you were only trying to defend those subsistence Japanese fishermen in their long-boats with their hand harpoons...but 'scientific research'?...yeah maaate...Maybe the scientific environmental argument for Japanese whaling could go like this...they provide the whales with a decent Darwinian predator...nature seems to have been a trifle remiss ...the Japanese live to 120 on healthy whale meat and don't have to make so many Landcruisers and Handycams to trade for our beef...less pollution their end...fewer feedlots here...everyone's happy.

Maybe Sony Music should flood the Western market with new agey cd's of cattle lowing to fuck up our beef industry in retaliation, or perhaps cattle-watching tours with Mimi McPherson from the backs of specially outfitted Toyotas... In the meantime,innumerate Greenies and the mock outrage of Richard Carleton notwithstanding, we'll exercise our irrational right to put shit on the Japanese and Norwegian 'scientific research'...

Well, gotta go...I've got to defend the chooks from marauding malnourished Aussies with a low sperm count...(no more rhino horn...greenie fanatics!)since some bastard restricted their access to essential protein provided by their taste for sea-turtle and dog meat:-)...

I'm pleased to say that I was able to get this to fit within Blogger's limitations on post size without any censorship editing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Lefties Under the Scalpel

Tuesday, 12 November 2002

Psychologist and sociologist Dr John J Ray conducts an ongoing inquiry into the psychological and sociological origins of Leftism at Dissecting Leftism. Dr Ray's writing shows a great deal of original historical insight - for example, before reading this page I was unaware that Napoleon was the first Fascist (although I think that Agis I, first king of the Spartans shouldn't be ignored as a contender for this title) nor was I aware of the historic german origins of conservatism. I'm so impressed with this blog that I've decided to add it to the blog roll.

I Got Them Ol' Navy Blues, Oh Yeah, I Got Them Ol' Navy Blues

Tuesday, 12 November 2002

Today's big news in Melbourne is, of course, the decision of Carlton Football Club President John Elliott to stand aside in favour of Ian Collins. A new board is to meet tonight to plan the club's future with its most pressing problem the issue of alleged salary cap offences.

AM's report of the story included sound-bites from Mr Elliott mentioning that Australian horticultural favourite the tall poppy. But before we get too carried away with another round of tut-tutting over the way Australian gardeners undervalue this fine bloom let's remember that this time Mr Elliott took the garden shears into his own hands.

And for those who like their football club presidents larger than life, there's still Eddie McGuire.

Word of the Day: bathos

Tuesday, 12 November 2002

Both "AM" and "The World Today" reported today on Immigration Minister Peter Ruddock's announcement of an overhaul of Australia's Business Migration program. Under the new arrangements, business migrants who migrate to the less populous states, such as South Australia and Tasmania are likely to receive preference over those who flock to Sydney (currently about 50% of all business migrants).

As well as covering Mr Ruddock's announcement, and the generally favourable reaction of state governments (which emphasised the need for skilled migration to match the needs of a growing and vibrant economy, etceteraaah, etceteraaah, etceteraaah (yada, yada, yada for those who are more familiar with Jerry Seinfeld than Rodgers and Hammerstein)), The World Today provided a couple of case studies of successful business immigrants in Tasmania. This caught my attention, as I quite like stories of those successful entrepreneurs who build thriving businesses from innovative ideas. What "The World Today" gave us was a Hobart cafe owner and the proprietor of a Tasmanian abbatoir which processes possums for export as game meat.

Which brings us to our word of the day, defined (as usual by the Macquarie) as:

a ludicrous descent from the elevated to the commonplace; anticlimax.

Update: Ken Parish has taken me to task for not looking a little more closely at this story, and gives some interesting background that I missed.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Business as Usual

Sunday, 10 November 2002

One of the central dogmas of the Big-Endian ideology that dominates political life in contemporary Australia is that the Trade Union movement has too much power. This belief has been a staple of Australian political life for at least the past 50 years and Tony Abbott, who inherited the mantle of Federal Minister for Cutting the Unions Back Down to Size from Peter Reith, has long been a believer in this principle.

So it's no surprise to read in this morning's Age that Mr Abbott proposes to extend the Federal government's power in unfair dismissal cases or rather, as the Government would prefer us to think of them, fair dismissal cases. In the print edition, Michelle Grattan reports that the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also plans to release proposals for further "workplace relations reform" later this week (or perhaps its "employee relations reform" these days - sometimes I have trouble keeping up with the cant vocabulary of this area of politics).

The ACCI proposals are aimed at hustling along the transition from a "nine-decade old centralised system based on 19th century paradigms" to something more befitting the modern age. Among other things, the ACCI proposes a summit of the ACCI, ACTU and Federal and State Governments to help things along. I'm not sure how the ACCI expects to sell the ACTU and the Labor state governments on the idea that a national summit on a return to Master/Servant Law is a progressive notion - but in an area where an employer's right to sweat non-union labour is defended as "Freedom of Association" and a bill to restore to some employers the right to arbitrarily dismiss their employees rejoices in the title "Fair Dismissal Act" all things seem to be possible.

Update: one of my serious researcher friends has taken me to task for missing the opportunity to include this Age report from Friday in this post. This report from October 30 is marginally relevant too. And Mr Malothane, the injured worker at the centre of the fuss, tells his own story here.

Further Update: Ken Parish has written a reply to this item, for those who want the other side of the story.