catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Archive for August 2005

Reporting VSU

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It’s hard to tell a new story on VSU. That’s the (unsurprising) conclusion I am drawing as I try to flog my Issue Analysis paper on VSU, which brings together the various arguments I’ve been advancing on Catallaxy about bundling services and combining prices. “Universities will be ‘left in a mess'” opened The Age‘s report. “The federal government’s student union package would bring chaos to universities..” began The Australian‘s coverage. The ‘mess’ claim was just a passing one near the end, after 6,000 words of argument, but it ended up as the story. Both papers mentioned my past life as a Ministerial staffer, bringing in the internal party critic angle, though this fact is not mentioned at all in my text. I’m not really complaining – I know how the media game works and I’d rather get coverage than not – but it highlights the difficulty of inserting new ideas into well-established media narratives.

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August 31, 2005 at 10:05 am

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The political compass revisited

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Jan Lester is a very good philosopher/political economist who wrote a strong defence of free market anarchism. His book Escape from Leviathan contains a number of arguments that I found compelling in principle even if the strong libertarian program has to be approached via minimum state liberalism.

This is his attempt to produce a political compass that disentangles liberal/libertarianism from other less congenial non-left positions. I don’t find these exercises very interesting or helpful but some may find his case illuminating or challenging.

The political distinction between left and right remains ideologically muddled. This was not always so, but a return to the pristine usage is impractical. Putting a theory of social liberty to one side, this essay defends the interpretation of left-wing as personal-choice and right-wing as property-choice. This allows an axis that is north/choice (or state-free) and south/control (or state-ruled). This Political Compass clarifies matters without being tendentious or too complicated. It shows that what is called ‘libertarianism’ is north-wing. A quiz gives the reader’s Political Compass reading.

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August 30, 2005 at 11:29 am

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Ross Campbell, Rhodes Scholar and wit

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Heads up for people who can put their hand on the colour supplement to the recent Weekend Australian. There is a good article on the late Australian journo Ross Campbell. A few days ago I revisited his memoire An Urge to Laugh and had an urge to post on it but did not find the time. I will try to come back to this post and build it up with some more information and extracts for people who cannot get hold of the article.

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August 30, 2005 at 9:30 am

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Just what kind of insult is 'mail-order bride'?

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In the SMH this morning veteran feminist Anne Summers is playing down the ‘racist’ aspect of calling Helena Carr a ‘mail-order bride’ and emphasising the sexist and classist aspects:

The stereotype of the mail-order bride in this country is of an Asian woman, often from the Philippines, whose economic circumstances are so dire that she feels no choice but to enter into a so-called mail-order marriage. Such women these days are just as likely to come from Russia or Eastern Europe. In other words, what characterises a mail-order bride is not that she is Asian but that she is poor. Oh, and that she’s a woman.

What Summers is missing here is that saying a woman is a ‘mail-order bride’ is as, if not more, insulting to her husband than to her – which is why it was appropriate that the toughest response to Brogden’s drunken musings came from Bob rather than Helena Carr. It suggests that he is so unattractive that no woman would marry him except out of financial or other desperation. Coming from a poor country is just bad luck – but being unattractive to women usually requires a special lack of the normal qualities. ‘Mail-order bride’ is as much a sexual as a sexist insult.

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August 30, 2005 at 7:51 am

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Brogden points the finger at Alex Hawke

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Back in 2003 Young Liberals were asking Alex Hawke "What can I do to help John Brogden?" No doubt the ambitious Young Liberal was quick to offer suggestions. Today, as Brogden fronted the media to resign the leadership he returned the favour. Asked about behind the scenes attempts to undermine his leadership Brogden singled out Hawke, a Young Liberal tagged as the leader of the ‘Rottweiler Right.’

Here’s what the Sydney Morning Herald’s Alan Mascarenhas said about Hawke earlier this year:

The national president of the Young Liberals has called for a conservative overhaul of the NSW Liberal Party, arguing it is indecisive, lacks a "clear ideological cut-out" and is in need of new talent.

Alex Hawke, 27, a leading figure of the Right and a staffer for the upper house MP David Clarke, told the Herald the party should adopt tougher stands on social issues such as drugs and abortion so "people know what we stand for".

"I take the view that in the state Liberal Party … we don’t have a clear, ideological cut-out," Mr Hawke said. "Federally, we’ve done it. Nobody can argue that we’re not tough on [illegal] refugees, or that we don’t take a tough-on-drugs approach, whereas at State level we try to be in a lot of places at once. We haven’t carved out our own niche."

He denounced party moderates, more liberal on social issues. "Nobody joins the Liberal Party to be left-wing," Mr Hawke said. "If you stand for compulsory student unionism, drug-injecting rooms and lowering the [homosexual] age of consent, you can choose the Greens, Labor or the Democrats."

He later denied that his criticism extended to the state leader, John Brogden, a moderate who has previously supported injecting-room trials and lowering the homosexual age of consent.

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August 29, 2005 at 12:41 pm

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The Trouble With Truth

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How Intelligent Design threatens liberalism

Log rolling is getting the American conservative movement into trouble. In the late 1970s they hit upon the idea of using tele-evangelists like Jerry Falwell to recruit fundamentalist Christians to the Republican cause. With fundamentalists now occupying a vital role in the conservative coalition, the movement has to accommodate their scientifically indefensible claims about the origins of life.

Tough talk about stem cell research, abortion, and gay marriage has always been welcome but some Christian groups want more. They want the government to acknowledge that religious and moral claims are every bit as factual as scientific claims. And just as the government agencies accept the authority of scientists in areas such as medicine, they want agencies to accept their claims about morality and the origins of life. The trouble is, there’s no agreement about how to settle the kinds of disputes the Christian activists want to start.

Read the rest of this entry »

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August 28, 2005 at 8:12 pm

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Uncivil Unions: Robert Corr defends the party line on VSU

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Red Rag‘s Robert Corr has been defending the Labor Party’s stand on Voluntary Student Unionism and taking some heat from student politicians like University of Queensland Union Treasurer Alex Main. When Corr congratulated Western Australian activists who marched on the Liberal Party HQ rather than Labor’s Main’s response was blunt: "get fucked robert."

The comments come from the NUS national education email list. The ALP’s compromise is an attempt to save student services at the expense of compulsory student unionism. Corr argues that "The only way you’ll stop full VSU is if Coalition senators cross the floor. The chances of them doing so in favour of the status quo is nil." The real choice, he says, is between having services or not having services.

At Cut Price Commentariat Liam Hogan has been taking a similar line: "The only thing left is to save important remnants: childcare, legal assistance, independent representation, emergency loans, and all of the other things that student unions provide."

Apparently student activists aren’t just annoying Labor Party members, they’re frightening government ministers. In the Sydney Morning Herald Julia Baird observed that both Tony Abbott and Brendan Nelson had pulled out of visits to campuses because of police concerns over their safety. "Have our federal ministers turned into what our woman-loving Arnold Schwarzenegger might term girly-men?" she wonders.

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August 28, 2005 at 1:29 pm

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