Friday, July 11, 2003

Repeat Offender

Brian Deegan has offended decent opinion yet again with an article in the Australian. At least four charges have been levelled against Deegan:

1. Once again, Deegan has raised the "it's all our fault" shibboleth in relation to international Islamo-Fascist terrorism;

2. Deegan's repeated references to his dead son Jake Joshua amount to a blatant exploitation of his son's memory for political purposes;

3. Deegan is angry at the wrong people. Instead of raising questions about the Government's performance in relation to the Bali bombings - for example questioning whether travel warnings were adequate - he should pay more attention to the people who were really responsible, the bombers;

4. Deegan is a naive goody-two-shoes wimp who doesn't realise that shooting is too good for terrorists, who really deserve a drawn out, painful death, preferably involving the creative use of pork products as a ritual defilement.

These charges, and the various other outraged comments found at Tim Blair's blog and Gareth Parker's have the same root: Deegan is not being a good victim. Tim Dunlop has already commented on both posts, so this post of mine may be supererogatory. On the other hand, having half written it last night, I've decided what the hell, I might as well finish it and put it up anyway.

Victims, especially of crime, enjoy a number of special privileges in political debate, but they must also abide by a number of binding obligations. Otherwise the office of poor bugger will be passed on to someone else.

The victim's first obligation is to reflect the community outrage arising from the crimes perpetrated against him. In saying that he is against giving the death penalty to Amrosi, Deegan has signally failed in this obligation. It would have been more fitting if Deegan's article had said that, while he is opposed to the death penalty in general, he was prepared to make an exception in the case of his son. This would have kept everybody happy: the boil 'em in lard brigade would have another clear example showing that, when they are personally affected, soft-headed opponents of the death penalty discover that maybe it's a good idea after all. On the other hand, the rest of the soft-headed bleeding-heart hand wringers would be able to tut-tut quietly, and make patronising comments about how we need to cut Deegan some slack, and offer the usual suggestions that once he gets over his initial grief, he might change his mind.

The victim must also show in his public statements, that he understands and respects the proper role of government authority in dealing with crime. Any suggestion that a criminal act may have been the result of government neglect is, of itself, offensive. This accounts for the objections to Deegan's repeated suggestions that the Australian Government might have stuffed up, even a little. Of course, this obligation may be waived if the current Government is a Labor Government because, as we all know, Labor Governments are necessarily out of touch with community attitudes and notoriously soft on crime.

Finally, victims who are grieving relatives, must show the proper respect for their dead. Once again, Deegan fails to perform properly. If Deegan's references to his dead son, and his dead son's grave been combined with a demand for fitting retribution on the killers (preferably involving very hot lard), no-one would have had a problem with his article, for the reasons I've already outlined. In summary, despite what the softies commenting at the Dunlop place may have to say, it's time for Deegan to wake up, smell the coffee and get with the program.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Hun Runs with "Sex Swap Cop" Shocker

Following up on yesterday's front page story, The Melbourne Hun offers some in-depth coverage and analysis on the controversy over the possibility that the Victoria Police may soon have transsexual within its ranks. The police force is in revolt:

THE police force is split over plans by a transsexual to join its ranks.

The rift between officers and police command emerged as the
Herald Sun learned a second transsexual wants to become a policewoman.

Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon yesterday refused to comment, but a spokesman claimed most police would back the move.

However an overwhelming majority of officers surveyed by the
Herald Sun yesterday said they did not want transsexual officers.

And 81 per cent of
Herald Sun readers who responded to a Voteline survey also opposed transsexuals being allowed to become police.

On the other hand, when Hun reporter Holly Ife took to the question to the streets yesterday, she found a different picture:

MELBURNIANS surveyed yesterday predominantly supported the right of a transsexual man to join Victoria Police.

A Herald Sun vox pop found the majority questioned believed the ability to do the job was more important than sexuality.

Nonetheless, The Hun's editorialist decided that the Voteline results provided enough moral high ground to declare:

Police Minister Andre Haermeyer, predictably, takes the rigid, politically correct view that in all circumstances everyone must get equal opportunity.

But in the real world of cops and robbers, what really matters is what the community wants from its police.

The public expects officers not only to uphold the law but to be acceptable role models.

Unfortunately, The Hun's crusade on this issue might have been a little counter-productive:

ANOTHER transsexual said she wanted to join the Victoria Police yesterday.

The transgender woman, who was born a man, went to a bayside police station to obtain application forms.

The issue has also drawn international attention, with reports appearing at The Independent On Line and Brunei Direct.

It looks like The Hun has found an issue to run with for the next few days. I suspect that eventually we can expect to see a Hun editorial something like this:

The decision to accept a transsexual recruit into the Victoria Police Force was a disastrous decision. Recruit X's decision to withdraw his application to join the police force was the best decision for himself, the Victorian community and the Victoria Police.

Herald Sun is sorry for Recruit X himself, who should not have been put into this situation. It has been very difficult for him and we congratulate Recruit X on his good sense. In withdrawing his application Recruit X has averted a growing crisis in the Victoria Police force and the Victorian community generally.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Tips for Young Witch Hunters

4. Keep them on their toes.

But those who are strongly suspected, that is, those who have acted in such a way as to engender a great and strong suspicion; even those are not necessarily heretics or to be condemned as such. For it is expressly stated in the Canon that no one is to be condemned of so great a crime by reason of a strong suspicion. And it says:

Therefore we order that, when the accused is only under suspicion, even if it be a strong one, we do not wish him to be condemned of so grave a crime; but such a one so strongly suspected must be commanded to abjure all heresy in general, and in particular that of which he is strongly suspected.

But if he afterwards relapses either into his former heresy or into any other, or if he associates with those whom he knows to be witches or heretics, or visits them, receives, consults with, forgives, or favours them, he shall not escape the punishment of backsliders, according to the chapter Accusatus.

The Malleus Maleficarum Part III., Third Head, QUestion XIX. Of the Various Degrees of Overt Suspicion which render the Accused liable to be Sentenced

So What?

The rainforest edition of the Melbourne Hun had a real screamer of a headline this morning; "Sex Swap Cop":

A transsexual man who plans to become a woman has applied to join the Victoria Police.

The strapping, 188cm candidate has passed the early stages of the selection process to join the force.

I'm not sure what this story is doing on the front page or how it got there, but the report hints that there might be some differences of opinion between Police command and Victoria's Equal Opportunity Commission on the one side, and the Victoria Police Asociation on the other:

Victoria Police Association secretary Paul Mullett said he was stunned [sic] by the news.

"Clark Kent went into a phone box and came out as Superman. This person is apparently going to go into the police academy as a man and come out as a woman," Sen-Sgt Mullett said.

"The association will be interested to see what the Government and the Chief Commissioner's policy position will ultimately be on this application – particularly if it's successful."

Jon Faine picked up the story on his radio show this morning: some of the comment is included in this report. We also get some extended, bob-each-way comment from Paul the stunned Mullett:

"The view of the association is that we should listen to community reaction today," Sergeant Mullett said.

"The community should have some input into Victoria's police force so let's listen to the community voice and let them decide."

Sgt Mullett said he felt union members would initially be shocked by the news, but the important issue was how well a person does their job.

However, it doesn't look like the Victoria Police are going to be too concerned with what the "community voice" might have to say, at least at this stage:

Victoria Police human resources director Sanjib Roy said a formal application by a transsexual had been received and would be processed.

"We try to attract people with strong values, integrity, intelligence, compassion and life experience," he told Melbourne's ABC radio.

"And we want to make sure we don't discriminate on the basis of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or religion as this would be contrary to equal opportunity laws."

Isn't it a bugger when the law gets in the way of running a police force that properly reflects community attitudes?

Update: ABC Online reports that Victorian Opposition Leader Robert Doyle has decided to make a complete idiot of himself on this issue.

Update Too: Giving Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls a perfect opportunity to show just how complete an idiot.

Looks Like It's Libertarian Season Again

In a transparent attempt to generate a lively comments thread and to get others to link to his blog, Ken Parish has posted a speculative think piece on libertarianism. Apparently this works; John Quiggin has taken up part of Ken's challenge - he doesn't appear to have done Ken's suggested reading, but nonetheless has weighed in with a reductio ad absurdum hatchet job on the philosophy of Robert Nozick, author of Anarchy, State & Utopia. Sam Ward at a Yobbo's View has flagged his intentions to respond to Ken's post later. And Brian at Crooked Timber notes that we seem to have declared Nozick bashing day Down Under.

I haven't done Ken's reccommended reading either, but this is the blogosphere, not academia, so I see no good reason not to weigh into this emerging debate myself. I actually have a copy of Anarchy, State & Utopia somewhere - it was passed on to me by a friend, who described it as a political philosophy based on the premise that the state evolved from the Mafia. I actually attempted to read it once - all I can remember of it is the section on "invisible hand laws", where Nozick takes Adam Smith's idea of the invisible hand of the market and extends on it to establish some basic point that I've long since forgotten.

As it's the only section of the book I can remember, I doubt that I got much further, although I do have vague memories of a state of nature theory which has social institutions arising out of "protective associations" formed by groups of like minded people who get together to defend themselves from the prevailing anarchy. From there I think they go on to sell protection to their neighbours and there you have it; the modern state begins with Doug and Dinsdale Piranha. But as I say, my memory of the book past the "invisible hand laws" is pretty vague; that's where I first started to lose patience with the book.

Nozick's thesis is that just as predictable behaviour emerges in economic markets through the operation on Smith's "invisible hand", there are other areas where systemic behaviour emerges through the same mechanism - the aggregation of individual choices. He cites several examples, starting (I think) with increased suicide rates around inner city high rise apartment blocks. The underlying mechanism is either that people looking for a way to top themselves are attracted to high rise buildings with easy access, or depressed tenants with poor impulse control might be more inclined to take a swan dive through the lounge window than their suburban cousins. Nozick works through some other examples, identifying plausible underlying mechanisms for interesting social phenomena.

The example that killed my interest in the book was Nozick's argument that over time you could expect Jews to become more intelligent than Roman Catholics. The reason for this, according to Nozick, is that in both religions, intelligent boys are encouraged to become religious leaders - either priests (in the case of Catholicism) or rabbis (in the case of Jews). As priests are mostly celibate, in Catholic communities this results in the most intelligent males being taken out of the gene pool, creating a selective pressure in favour of lower intelligence. Nozick may have mentioned cultural factors as well - because priests don't (officially) have children, fewer Catholic kids are exposed to the sort of lively theological discussion that you can expect to go on in priestly households, so the Catholic practice deprives Catholic boys of intelligent male role models.

I'm not a Roman Catholic, but I still found the example, and the argument used to support it, stupid. Possibly Nozick included it to add a bit of humour to his argument or to satirise anti-semitism; if so it's a good example of the general standard of philosophical humour and a poor example of satire. After reading it, I found it difficult to put aside the conviction that all the rest of the book had in store was more ridiculous elaborations of stupid ideas.

The other libertarian writer who gets a passing mention in Ken's post is Ayn Rand. Back in the early seventies, when I had my first job, I'd occasionally see people reading The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged on the red rattler on the way home from work. The typical Rand reader was usually male, middle-aged, and wore the sort of grey suit that was pretty much de rigeur for middle managers in banks and insurance corporations. I didn't read Rand myself until a university friend lent me a copy of Atlas Shrugged a couple of years later.

Looking back, there's a sad irony in the fact that Rand had so many readers in the managerial middle classes that Rand openly despised. Rand's contempt for these people is openly displayed in Atlas Shrugged. For those unfamiliar with the novel, the plot is very simple: the world's "intellectuals" go on strike, bringing on the collapse of civilisation as we know it and paving the way for Rand's vision of an objectivist Utopia. Along the way there are interludes of rough sex and a few touches of bizarre homoeroticism in industrial settings. On the latter, they would count as homoeroticism if written by a male writer; in Rand's hands perhaps it's more the equivalent of the sort of lesbian porn which is produced by men for male audiences.

The intellectuals who go on strike are of course, capitalist entrepreneurs, sick of being fettered and exploited by the "looter state". John Galt, the books hero, is the inventor of a truly miraculous electric motor which runs on static electricity drawn from the atmosphere. One of his friends is a South American playbay and pirate, who steals back money looted from the rich for the benefit of the undeserving poor and returns it to its rightful owners. Against them are ranged a host of corrupt bureaucrats, corrupt trade union officials and - middle level corporate managers. Not all of Rand's middle-level managers are depicted as evil - one is a loyal business associate of the novel's sado-masochistic heroine, Dagney Taggart.

Rand's view is made pretty clear - there are the creative people, who deserve to reap every possible reward from the fruits of their intellects and the rest of us, who are just there to provide the muscle or intellectual stoop labour needed to execute their ideas. If we're on the side of the looters, we're morally reprehensible; if not, we're just dispensible. That includes Dagney's friend and colleague who, when civilisation ultimately collapses, is left on an isolated section of railway track, desperately trying to restart a stalled railway locomotive. This, we must understand, is the proper fate of those who value loyalty to others above their own self-interest. In the end, this poor bugger was just another "second-hander": lacking the creative spark of sociopathy which enabled Rand's heroes and heroine to achieve much happier fates.

If Nozick and Rand were typical libertarians, I'd be forced to conclude that libertarians are generally silly people. Perhaps this is why I'm uncomfortable when friends describe me as a "left libertarian" - that and unpleasant memories of the amount of condescending venom that International Socialists can put into pronouncing the phrase.

Oops: Ayn Rand actually scores her mention in a comment from Oz Libertarian 24601. Sorry Ken, sorry 24601.

Monday, July 07, 2003


I think it was a disastrous decision and I'm glad that, I think we're all glad that Canon John has stood down, though we are sorry for the man himself, who should not have been put into this situation. I think it's very difficult for him and I'm glad he's taken this decision. At this early stage it looks like this is going to avert a crisis that was growing in the United Kingdom especially, as well as in the international Anglican communion.

Bishop Robert Forsythe of the New South Wales Right of the Anglican Church, speaking on AM this morning. Speaking personally, I feel sorry for Bishop Forsythe, who should not have been put into the situation of having to offer public comment on the issue of Canon John's appointment as Bishop of Reading.

Tips for Young Witch Hunters

2. No accusation is baseless.

The following procedure, therefore, is to be employed in the case of such a one against whom nothing has been proved except public obloquy. In this case judgement cannot be delivered for the accused, nor can she be absolved as in the first method; but a canonical purgation must be imposed upon her. Therefore let the Bishop or his deputy, or the Judge, first take note that, in a case of heresy, it is not necessary that a person should be defamed only by good and respected people; for the calumniation uttered by common and simple folk carries equal weight.

And the reason for this is, that the same persons who are admitted as accusers in a case of heresy are also admitted as detractors. Now any heretic can be accused by anybody, except his mortal enemies; therefore he can also be defamed by anybody.

3. The accused is guilty until proven not-so-guilty (see Tip 1).

Here it is to be considered that, when a person is duly found to be publicly defamed of some heresy, and nothing is proved against him except that defamation, a canonical purgation shall be imposed upon him. That is, he must produce some seven, ten, twenty, or thirty men, according to the extent to which he has been defamed and the size and important of the place concerned, and these must be men of his own station and condition. For example, if he who is defamed is a religious, they must be religious; if he is a secular, they must be seculars; if he be a solder, they must be soldiers who purge him from the crime for which he is defamed. And these sponsors must be men professing the Catholic faith and of good life, who have known his habits and life both recently and for a long time.

But if he refuses this purgation, he must be excommunicated; and if he remains obstinate in that excommunication for a year, he is then to be condemned as a heretic.

And if he accepts the purgation and fails in it; that is, if he cannot find sponsors of the number and quality desired; he shall be considered as convicted, and is to be condemned as a heretic.

Malleus Maleficarum, Part III., Third Head, Question XXI: Of the Second Method of Pronouncing Sentence, when the Accused is no more than Defamed.

Reading Matters

Just in from the local library this week are A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair by Daniel Jonah Goldman, 199 Days: The Battle for Stalingrad and Stalin by Edvard Radzinsky. That's the same Stalin I took back last week, narrowly avoiding an overdue fine. I'm going to put Lyndall Ryan on hold while I get through the last ninety pages or so.

Perversely, I've persisted with the undead prose of Necroscope: Defilers long enough to reach the half-way mark. It's grisly stuff, especially for lovers of good writing:

Now the vampires took up the body, Castellano at the head, and Garzia at the feet, and without pause fed it headfirst into the hearest niche. As it went the crumbling bones of some elder Argucci, entombed two hundred years before, fell into dust and gave it passage. And the silent screams seemed louder yet, but Castellano and Garzia didn't hear them.

Then, as the nightmare pair dusted themselves down and left the burial chmber, Garzia looked back in satisfaction. Several dozen pairs of feet - none of them Arguccis, but all with their flesh in various stages of decay or completely sloughed away - protruded from their niches like Georgi Grusev's ... except his were firm as yet, however cold, and their toes pointed upwards.

It's the sort of book that gets you thinking about the possible benefits of pre-frontal lobotomy: get rid of a couple of creativity inhibiting "higher centres" and I could probably write like that. And make a bucket of money into the bargain. Of course it's unlikely that any "responsible" medical practitioner would be prepared to perform brain surgery purely on the off-chance that it might turn you into a best selling horror writer, which just goes to show you how few personal liberties we really have. A truly free society would recognise that my brain is pretty much mine to do what I like with and as long as the doctor is adequately remunerated, no one has the right to interfere in what is basically a commercial transaction. Bloody nanny state.