Saturday, December 14, 2002

Word of the Day: Ad Hominem

I haven't done a "Word of the Day" for a while, so I thought I would indulge myself. As ususal I shall introduce it by citing the Macquarie Dictionary definition (which, in light of the comment I've made here might lay me open to charges of hypocrisy, but I can live with that. That wouldn't be an ad hominem argument anyway, but straight out vituperation):

1. appealing to a person's prejudices or special interests, instead of to their intellect: an argument ad hominem. 2. relying on personal attack.

Now, anyone who can count will notice that the Macquarie gives two distinct senses of the word. Unfortunately, a lot of people who should really know better confuse any personal abuse during the course of intellectual debate with an argument ad hominem, overlooking the much more prevalent and devious use of the first type of ad hominem argument. Personally, I can see nothing wrong with giving the original thinking of the hypocrite and the creativity of the liar the acknowledgement that is their due, as long as you can demonstrate them. Let's not confuse the icing with the cake.

Song for Saturday

Saturday, 14 December 2002

In the early 60s, this little ditty was revived on BBC radio and became the number one hit on playground of the primary school in Manchester where I started my education. Looking back on it, there's something slightly comical about a bunch of schoolboys trying to sing baritone, which is what the song really requires. It goes to the tune of Merle Travis' Sixteen Tons which is not too surprising, because that's what it is.

Sixteen tons
Words & Music - Merle Travis

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake* by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you, then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

Yes, We Now Have Comments

Saturday, 14 December 2002

So feel free to bucket any posts you don't like. It all washes out of the scuppers eventually anyway. Of course the occasional spot of praise for the rare post you do like is always welcome too.

Maybe It's Just Xenophobia

Saturday, 14 December 2002

Trying to mediate a ceasefire in the Ozblogistani civil war over allegations of racism, Ken Parish refers to the Macquarie Dictionary and its definition of racism as:

the belief that human races have distinct characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others. [my emphasis]

It's that "usually" that I think creates the problem for Ken's position: if we're going to debate the topic on the basis of this definition then the notion that one's own race is superior is not a necessary condition of racism, or even a sufficient one, merely incidental (this is the sort of argument you learn to make after you quit the study of economics in favour of the study of philosophy). The sufficient condition for racism is the first part: the belief that human races have distinct characteristics which determine their respective cultures. It's a bugger really, because as Ken says, it puts a lot of issues off the political agenda as per se racist and it creates some uncomfortable questions about a few of the scientific theories kicking around the place. And even more uncomfortable questions about the social theories which maintain that, for example, differences in average wealth between races (i.e. economic dominance) are due to those distinct characteristics which determine the cultures of different races.

On the subject of John Howard's racism, I'm prepared to accept Ken's argument that most of the time he is playing wedge politics: except for that remark he made apropos the child overboard affair that "we don't want people like that in Australia". I think the lesser charge of xenophobia is more likely to stick in this instance, just as he never lied to the Australian people once during the whole affair, he merely passed on the lies that were told to him. I don't know how that defence would hold up in an action for libel but as no specific individual suffered damage to their reputation as a result of the PM's remark, that last point is moot anyway.

Who's Abusing Whom?

Saturday, 14 December 2002

Ken Parish and I have very different tastes when it comes to blogs: he likes Wog Blog and Professor Bunyip some of the time. Most of the time, try as I might, I don't.

In an extended rant, the good Professor takes Margo Kingston to task for "abusing" George Orwell nee Eric Blair on this Web Diary page. You'll actually have to search the page to find it, which is perhaps why the good Professor neglected to provide a hyperlink. You'll also discover that the springboard for the Professor's launch into blustering outrage is not, as the Professor's presentation of it might suggest, an extended article by Margo but a short response to a reader's post. And finally, the Orwell quote Gudgeon accuses Margo of abusing occurs within the context of Margo's own quoting of the article she offers as suggested reading.

There's also this quibble:

While Zmag requires a subscription, it's online incarnation, Znet, charges exactly what Cromwell's tosh is worth, which is to say not a cent.

Which is true, just as it's true of the New York Times. But a lot of people, myself included, get irritated with those huge on-line subscription forms that you need to fill out to access NYT articles and I think it's more reasonable to assume that this is what Margo might have been referring to even if you're disinclined to go the whole hog and give her credit for some intelligence.

I had intended this post to be about the widespread conservative appropriation of Orwell as a rich motherlode of juicy anti-left wing quotes, and the bizarre irony this presents, especially when you read Orwell's largely approving descriptions of the way POUM was organised: POUM officers were elected by the troops for example. But I can't be bothered - Bunyip's bile doesn't warrant it. The last time I saw intellectualism this dishonest was when my rampantly Hayekian economics lecturer dismissed the whole of Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by citing his tongue in cheek proposal that the government create employment by burying 5 pound notes in bottles and giving the unemployed spades to dig them up. She omitted to mention the next sentence in which he went on to say that it would probably be more useful if they did it by investing in public works.

Beating the BlogGeist

Saturday, 14 December 2002

Tim Dunlop links to this post by Gene Healy speculating that Al Qaeda has more or less shot its bolt. Well, this time I got there first a whole two days before Gene, the blogging equivalent of the Paleolithic era.

Just felt like blowing my own trumpet.

The Courage of a Modern President

Saturday, 14 December 2002

AM this morning aired a report on the latest US moves to counter terrorism by scaring the shit out of the population: mass vaccinations of front-line military personnel to counter the possibility that terrorists might use smallpox as a biological weapon against the US. Apparently there's one of those credible possibilities that some of the Russian stocks of the smallpox virus may have found their way into the hands of said terrorists. President George W Bush is to be vaccinated too, because he cannot in all conscience ask others to take a risk that he is not prepared to take himself (or something like that: as I write this today's transcript is not yet available).

So, what are the risks? According to Australia's Commonwealth Medical Officer, if the entire US population of around 200 million people were to be vaccinated, you could expect 200 to 400 deaths from the vaccine. In other words, there's a chance, somewhere between 1 in a million and 1 in 500,000 that President Bush might die and the chances that he might have some other adverse reaction to the vaccine are higher: at a rough guess, somewhere around the 1 in 10,000 mark. So, with the risk that he is taking, no doubt the White House will keep us posted on the President's health with regular bulletins.

I think the vaccination itself will provide Mr Bush with a perfect opportunity to lead by example, with extensive media coverage of the President smiling bravely as the White House's chief doctor pricks his upper arm with a sterile lancet before introducing the vaccine. Later press briefings will inform the broader public that the President's vaccination site has formed a nice clean scab and the prognosis for a complete recovery is good, as long as he keeps it exposed to the air and refrains from picking at it. And finally, there will be great relief when we all learn that the scab has finally dropped off, leaving a small white mark. Sadly, this small area of skin on the Presidential bicep will be a permanent blemish on the Presidential sun tan, but this is a small price to pay when the safety of American democracy is at stake.

Only one thing bothers me: the US didn't end it's program of routine smallpox vaccinations for the entire population until 1972, a mere 30 years ago. President Bush was born in 1946. So why isn't he vaccinated already?

Update (Friday, 20 December 2002): since this item has started to attract comment, It's probably time I posted this link to the AM transcript.

Friday, December 13, 2002


Friday, 13 December 2002

Ken Parish has picked up on the posts by Gary Sauer-Thompson and me on Paul Krugman's "two cultures" account of the conflict between humanities scholarship and economics. He footnotes the listings as a "challenge for John Quiggin, Jason Soon et al". So far the gauntlet hasn't been taken up so I've been spared the necessity of writing one of those weaselling "What I really intended to say was ..." posts on the issue. Still the time may yet come.

By the way, I thought it was very kind of Ken to volunteer his services as second for Gary and myself in this affair. It shows remarkable gallantry.

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash

Friday, 13 December 2002

I've just been checking out the introduction to Virginia Postrel's The Future and Its Enemies (link via Tim Dunlop). It starts with an extended meditation on the revamp of the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland in 1998. I've been to Disneyland; it was fun. For most of the day anyway. When it's evening and you're jaded from six hours of sensory overload, pissed off at having to pay for a two-pack of Tylenol to ease the pain of your companion's dysmenorrhea and looking at a three hour bus ride back to central Los Angeles the romance dies. Your attention drifts from the gorgeous scenery of the rides to the cleverly concealed industrial technology that drives them and the mind turns to thoughts of Taylorism. I had nowhere near as much fun as John Safran did in his Race Around the World segment, asking the guide at the Walt Disney Museum awkward questions about Walt's alleged fascist sympathies and sneaking a Saddam Hussein doll into the "Small World" ride.

Postrel doesn't share my crap-coloured glasses view of Disneyland:

Disneyland was dedicated to what Walt Disney called "plussing": continuous improvement through both new ideas and changes to existing attractions.

The notion of continuous improvement through both new ideas and changes to existing "attractions" (in the world outside the theme park we're probably better off speaking of institutions and technologies) is the basis of Postrel's dynamist vision of the future and, like many polemicists, she offers us a simple choice:

How we feel about the evolving future tells us who we are as individuals and as a civilization: Do we search for stasis — a regulated, engineered world? Or do we embrace dynamism — a world of constant creation, discovery, and competition?

Postrel places herself firmly on the dynamist side of this divide: the domain name of her site is "". My first impression is that Postrel's core argument is that there are basically two kinds of people in the world: smart people and stupid people. Dynamism is progressive and smart: stasism, a position embraced at both ends of the political spectrum, is reactionary and stupid.

There's a wealth of potential for argument and satire here, especially as Postrel's thesis has a lot of features which pretty much guarantee its success as the next big intellectual fad. Too much for one post really so I'm looking forward to returning to this topic in the future. It looks like being more fun than the Indiana Jones ride.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

What I Expect to be Throwing Across the Room in Disgust Very Soon

Thursday, 12 December 2002

I've decided to give Felipe Fernando Armeste's irritating tomelet Truth: A History and a Guide for the Perplexed one last chance to make sense before it's off to the second hand shop like last Christmas's unwanted puppy getting packed off to the Lort Smith Animal Shelter. For a short time Armeste's historical, anthropological, philosophical and every-other-thingical survey of the concept of truth, starting with "the truth that you feel", through "the truth that you are told", "the truth you think for yourself" to "the truth you perceive with your senses" seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people who really ought to know better, as the deepest work on major philosophical themes since The Tao of Pooh.

Armeste apparently is an Oxford don but reading the book and his frequent folksie remarks about how little he learned at school I sometimes suspect his major field of scholastic achievement has well-trimmed grass and chalk lines on it. When discussing thinkers like Kurt Godel and Werner Heisenberg he quite frankly admits that he doesn't understand most of the issues and it's far from endearing: the resale value of my copy would be much higher if he'd taken the time to do some reading and research instead of dismissing the whole topic as the sort of high-falutin' stuff that's only of interest to girlie swots who are no good at rugger.

The first time I tried to read Truth etc I gave up shortly after Armeste started getting stuck into post-modernism and relativism. There's a lot of relativism in his own historical treatment of the four types of truth and he shows a strong tendency to treat them as equally valid: as long as you have some concept of the truth it doesn't too much matter whether it's grounded in personal intuition, religious authority, right reason or empirical observation. In my view the classification is too restricted anyway: it ignores a lot of the other forms of truth that are common currency in modern society, such as the truth that is shouted in your face, the truth that you overhear on the bus, the truth that's just between you, me and the doorpost and Armeste's apparent personal favourite, the truth that is explained to you in condescending detail with a patronising sneer.

Torn Between Two Cultures ...

Thursday, 12 December 2002

Gary at Public Opinion has an interesting post on a 1992 article by US economist Paul Krugman. Krugman uses C P Snow's notion of the "two cultures" as the springboard for an attack on humanities intellectuals who just don't get economics because they can't handle the mathematics. Gary quotes Krugman's article extensively, and it seems a little one sided: in his fixation on the mathematically benighted humanities scholars, Krugman ignores the humanities benighted "hard" scientists who, for converse reasons, also regard most economics as a load of old rope.

I did two years of economics when I decided to supplement my B Sc with a BA. I didn't study the course under the best conditions: the first year lecturer in Micro was a rampant free-marketeer and some of the prescribed texts appeared to have been dumped on the Australian market after failing to find favour with the academic staff of US colleges and universities. But I have to admit that my jaundiced view of the subject was mostly informed by the naive prejudice of the "hard" scientist that if you're going to apply mathematical models, it generally helps if you occasionally try running some actual numbers through them. The most complicated mathematical problem I encountered in the whole two years was calculating the depreciation of the value of an asset over time. That's a straightforward exercise for anyone who learnt about geometric series in high school maths. As for all the diagrams and graphs, well the classical supply/demand curve is a piece of mathematical junk used to give a spurious pseudo-quantitive gloss to a priori qualitative analyses of how markets determine prices. They don't improve any from there either.

A lot of the time, I felt that the whole subject was Hume's is/ought fallacy writ large: somewhere between the lecture where a number of "simplifying assumptions" were introduced to allow us to develop a workable theory of market behaviour and the last lecture, the notion that trade works best when it's free was quietly dealt into the game from the bottom of the intellectual deck. There seemed to be a hell of a lot of this going on and it's become one of the mantras of the free marketeers: markets work if only they are left alone. On one level it's like the physical chemist's recognition that Boyle's Law starts to fail when the temperature of a gas gets low enough for it to start condensing - but chemists generally don't insist that government policy be shaped by the need to preserve the experimental conditions required for the application of Boyle's Law. Most of them understand that the really interesting stuff happens where Boyle's Law starts to break down, and instead of bitching about it, actually study the process.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Suspicion, Mistrust, Malice ...

Wednesday, 11 December 2002

.. but the greatest of these is malice. That seems to be today's slogan at the Billablog, if this by-blow in one of Stanley Gudgeon's rants on the subject of Tony Kevin and SIEV-X is anything to go by:

Forgive Al-Sobbi for prefering to believe that some sinister force made those nails spring from the tortured planking. He's a grieving father who needs someone other than himself to blame for the death of his daughter, who would still be alive if he had not risked her life by attempting to jump the queue of law abiding immigrants standing in line for an Australian entry visa.

While I share the good Professor's preference for strong spirits over spirituality (make mine a Laphroiag), there are limits you know. Even for godless topers.

Last Words on Rolah McCabe?

Wednesday, 11 December 2002

Despite the fact that the Court of Appeals has overturned Justice Eames' ruling in McCabe vs BAT, it's not all over yet. Commenting on these remarks by BAT spokesman John Galligan on the conduct of Melbourne law firm Slater & Gordon yesterday, Peter Gordon indicated to Jon Faine that he would be seeking legal advice on one or two of Mr Galligan's comments which weren't reported in yesterday's Oz. In the Melbourne Age, Jonathan Liberman (a lawyer who advises the VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control and Quit Victoria) puts his view of the Court of Appeal's decision which, unsurpringly, is pretty much the opposite of Janet Albrechtsen's "Rah, rah justice at last for the poor oppressed corporate lawyers of the world" take on the issue. If the thought of polluting your mind with an article printed in the Fairfax press is too ghastly to take, try reading Ken Parish's considered post on the case or Matt's at Bright Cold Day.

Meanwhile, BAT's claim for costs against the McCabes is going through taxation (the process where costs are examined by the court to ensure that the amounts claimed are fair and corect), which is expected to cut the costs bill by a mere $2 million or so. Although Jonathan Liberman raises the possibility of a further appeal to the High Court with $2 to $2.5 million in adverse costs already clocked up, I suspect that the McCabe family might feel it's wiser to heed the words of ex-Animal Alan Price, in one of his songs on the sound-track to Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man:

We all want justice, but you've got to have the money to buy it,
You'd have to be a fool to close your eyes and deny it.

It's a great album, I've got it on vinyl somewhere. I'll have to get it out and play it again soon.

Walking Through Wills

Wednesday, 11 December 2002

I've just been up to Sydney Road to buy a new pair of shoes. The shoe store is one of those factory-direct discount places (actually like a lot discount clothing outlets it's more shipping-container-direct but it's still cheap) in a strip of Sydney Road that also has (in no particular order):

One of those oriental rug shops;

A lebanese supermarket;

A halal butcher;

A vietnamese owned discount cigarette store;

A sandwich bar run by a Filipina called Lily;

A corner milk bar full of strange islamic groceries from Turkey;

A Salvation Army Red Shield store;

A Pakistani pharmacist next door to an Egyptian doctor.

I'm not sure I got all the ethnicities right, but in any case, I think you get the picture. The little corner of the Federal Electorate of Wills where I live isn't exactly John Howard's mainstream Australia. No part of Wills is. Mainstream Australia did come visiting once, shortly after Bob Hawke decided that giving photo opportunities in a white towelling bathrobe was more suited to his dignity as Labor's new elder statesman than sitting on the Keating back bench. That triggered the Wills bye-election, which brought mainstream Australia here for a short term visit in the person of a Pauline Hanson's One Nation candidate who did a lot of door-knocking and leafleting, trying to convince the Greeks, Turks, Vietnamese, Chinese, Lebanese and assorted Anglo race-traitors like myself who infest this neck of the bricks and bluestone cobbles that the basic problem with Australia is too many bloody immigrants. Some might call this political courage; I call it stupidity.

Going the other way down Sydney Road from my street, there's plenty of evidence of the infiltration of that dangerous Islamic fundamentalism stuff into Australian society too, like the Arabic bookstore with The Evolution Myth prominently displayed in the window. I must be desensitised to it: I can't see the difference between a fundamentalist Islam that rejects the theory of evolution and a fundamentalist Christianity that rejects the theory of evolution. And along with it, the other precious cultural heritage of secular humanist society, like Danielle Steele novels, heavy metal music and gay liberation. Despite my best efforts, I still haven't managed to spot the AK-47s and other weapons of small-scale personal destruction hidden under the voluminous chadors you see on some of the women who shop in Sydney Road. It's hard enough working out where they keep the tits.

Champion of the Oppressed

Wednesday, 11 December 2002

If Angela Shanahan is a wrong not even Superman can right, who's left to deal with Janet Albrechtsen? Having already given us hero judges, Janet today introduces us to another curiosity from the judicial bestiary:

... what Tennyson called the "wilderness of the single instance" judge.

The object of Janet's indignation is Justice Geoffrey Eames, the Victorian Judge whose decision in the Rolah McCabe case was recently overturned by Victoria's Court of Appeal. There's been a lot of commentary around Ozblogistan about this decision. Here is an excerpt from one of the more sensitive ones:

Her family has lost her. And their major memory of her last moments with them is of a dying woman playing the innocent in a court room. Surely she was made of stronger stuff than that.

Besides Eames, the media who reported his original decision with such hoop-la come in for a fair bit of stick from Janet:

HAD the media read Eames's judgment, it would have found that his findings against Clayton Utz were based on a mixture of incorrect findings and an unerring belief that advice Clayton Utz gave to BAT in 1985 and 1990 was for the purpose of "devising a strategy" – Eames repeats these conspiratorial words over and over again – for the destruction of documents.

Not only that, but infatuated with the David vs Goliath romance of the victimised smoker taking on the big bad tobacco companies and their lawyers and winning, the media dismissed as "self-serving" law firm Clayton Utz' denial of wrong-doing. Well, the media would, wouldn't they? But, in the end justice prevailed:

... the Court of Appeal vindicated the lawyers, left the media dupes looking like, well, dupes and delivered a few unspoken lessons on the justice system.

A short footnote to the article makes it clear that Janet is well placed to offer insightful and objective comment on this case: her husband is a partner of the law firm that acted for Clayton Utz senior partner Brian Wilson.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

More Russian Fiction

Tuesday, 10 December 2002

From FrontPage via Wog Blog comes the story of how the Russians broke the threat of Chechen terrorism by making sure that the terrorists knew that they would die by being shot with a bullet dipped in yesterday's bacon drippings and buried in a shroud of caul fat and chitlins. This technique for dealing with muslim terrorists was allegedly pioneered by Pershing in the Phillipines around 1911.

What I want to know is, why the Russians bothered with this rigmarole when they have direct access to hell via that secret hole in Siberia that an over-enthusiastic team of geologists drilled in the 1980's. They could have saved themselves the trouble by just tying the buggers up and dropping them down the hole. The wog in Wog Blog believes that:

To win this war on terror we will need creative thinkers. And I do not mean Judy Davis and Tom Kenneally.

I can agree with that - most of this stuff sounds more like Danielle Steele Anne Rice and Stephen King to me.


Tuesday, 10 December 2002

In Saturday's post Death and Resurrection I described Prince Felix Yusupov's account of the death of Rasputin as being:

... widely regarded as the finest piece of short fiction in twentieth century Russian literature.

In the light of the recent High Court ruling in Gutnick vs Dow Jones, I think it may be wise to retract this statement, given that I don't know where it may eventually be read and that it may be hurtful to Prince Yusupov's descendents and God only knows what the current Russian laws on this sort of thing are. What I meant to say, of course, is that Prince Yusupov's account of the death of Rasputin is widely regarded as an accurate eyewitness report of a major historic event, by one of the key participants in that event. No that won't do, that's only digging myself in deeper - what I meant to say is if any one makes any trouble about that post it's gone, and just you try to prove that it ever existed.

Towards Totometrics

(A Preliminary Statistical Analysis of Mug Punting)

Tuesday, 10 December 2002


Despite the inroads of other forms of gambling, such as casinos and the pokies, horse racing still plays an important role in Australian cultural and leisure activities. The issue of racehorse performance is of keen interest to many Australians, however, despite the hours of study and analysis which have been devoted to the subject, punting remains by and large a mug's game with most of the economic benefits accruing to the totaliser operators. This is largely due to a lack of systematic scientific study, an omission which the new science of totometrics seeks to address. Totometrics aims to replace our current inadequate understanding of the "art" of race-course betting with a properly grounded scientific approach to the problem. This first study lays the groundwork by undertaking a quantitative statistical analysis of race-horse performance.


A sample of typical races at a major Melbourne venue was analysed for correlation between pre-race TAB dividends and final placings of the horses run in each race. Pre-race tote dividends were obtained from the Victorian TAB and complete final race results from AAP. Final placings were plotted against pre-race dividends at 15 minutes before the race (-15 SP) and 1 minute (-1 SP) before the race for 5 selected races (the races included the final sample all had fields of between 7 and 10 runners after scratchings). Correlation coefficients were calculated over all runners in all races sampled.

Results and Conclusions

Correlation of -15 SP with finishing position: 0.533
Correlation of -1 SP with finishing position: 0.548

This shows a high degree of correlation between both -15 SP and -1 SP and the eventual placing of all runners. Removing a couple of obvious donkeys outliers revealed by the scatter diagrams (horses number 2 and 3 in race 5) gives the following correlations:

Correlation of -15 SP with finishing position: 0.626
Correlation of -1 SP with finishing position: 0.627

These correlations are very close to those which are claimed to demonstrate that national average IQ is the key determinant of a nation's GDP, confirming that -15 SP and -1 SP are strong predictors of a horse's race performance and that SP generally is the most likely determinant of a horse's final placing than nebulous, unquantifiable factors such as "form", "track conditions" or "who's on the take". Further research will be required to establish whether SP is genetically determined and to identify differences in SP between standard bred and thoroughbred horses.

Onward with Johnson

Tuesday, 10 December 2002

Zeppo Bakunin has been pestering me for anagrams all week - don't ask why, it's too complicated to explain. Anyway, that's one up there. Politically it's at least thirty years out of date which is why I think it's so appropriate to its subject. And it's much better than the only other I've been able to come up with so far: "Whose bugger?".


Tuesday, 10 December 2002

I don't know what the bloke at the local milk bar is up to. When I went there this morning he had the newspaper banners out: on the left, the Melbourne Hun: "SEX BEAST HUNT" and immediately next it on the right The Age: "BASHIR'S PLAN FOR AUSTRALIA". He usually puts them the other way round, with a bit of distance between them, so I suspect he's playing silly buggers.

Update: I think the subbies at the Oz are feeling a bit playful today. How else can we explain the headline on their opinion page "Angela Shanahan: A wrong not even Superman can right"?

Monday, December 09, 2002

Defending Family Values

Monday, 9 December 2002

I haven't seen former sexologist and latter day advocate of family values Bettina Arndt get an outing for a while, so I was pleased to see this piece in this morning's Age. Once again, Bettina has issued a rousing call for Australians to rally to the defence of the family against its traditional enemies, those irresponsible young females who conceive children out of wedlock, usually in the back of a hotted up Holden Commodore and, to add insult to injury, without achieving a decent orgasm along the way. That's right, we're talking about the modern scourge of single mothers and their children, who are

... five times as likely to be poor as those in two-parent families. Growing up in a single-parent family also roughly doubles the risk that a child will drop out of school, have difficulty finding a job, or become a teenage parent.

Next best off are children living with "cohabiting partners and in stepfamilies" and best off of all children are (you guessed it) "those living with two married, biological parents". And, as almost one Australian child in three is born out of wedlock, Bettina seems very confident that all these adverse effects of the US epidemic of illegitimacy can be expected here too. So it's time for more "pro-marriage" government policies. here's one US initiative that Bettina cites:

Most US states have reduced marriage disincentives in their welfare systems, with some introducing family caps that deny additional welfare payments for children conceived while a mother was receiving welfare.

That's one way to deal with the poverty related problems of the single parent child - make sure that Mom knows that producing any more of them is going to make the poverty worse. In the face of this financial disincentive, she's bound to realise how important it is to keep those all-too-welcoming legs firmly closed. If not, well it still helps keep the main problem under control: the effects on our welfare budget.

However, Bettina seems to be a bit confused on this issue: on the one hand she wants the budget brought under control by cutting the amount of welfare support we give to single mothers on the other she wants financial disincentives for single mothers to reconcile with, and ultimately perhaps marry the fathers of their children, removed. No doubt once they're married, they'll be well on the way to rejoining mainstream Australian society, with a nice little brick veneer on a quarter-acre block somewhere in the outer suburbs, a Hills hoist in the back yard and multiple female orgasms every second Saturday night while the kids are on a sleep-over at a friend's place.