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Monday message board

May 23rd, 2005

As usual on Monday, you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

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  1. Elizabeth
    May 23rd, 2005 at 09:02 | #1

    Thoroughly enjoyable weekend. For the most part, enjoyed voyeuristically how the ALP in Victoria is slowly tearing itself apart. The role of the Socialist Left faction looks remarkably like sour grapes. Having lost administrative control of the party they’ve set a course for ‘mutually assured destruction’, by trying to bring the Right to heal.

  2. May 23rd, 2005 at 10:12 | #2

    What’s with the Uniting Church proposal to “end secular education”?

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Church-call-to-end-secular-education/2005/05/15/1116095852056.html

    When you unpick the details as reported in the news, the whole thing appears contradictory.

    “…secular is understood to mean that government schools will not advocate any specific religion.” Right. And the fact that our public education system is secular doesn’t mean we don’t teach children about religion.

    But the Uniting Church seems to be saying that they want to (1) educate children in a wide, ecumenical and informative way and (2) end secular education. So it would seem they are after some kind of religious teaching, as opposed to only teaching kids about religion.

    This weird, contradictory mess is going to go to legislation. What will happen once Hillsong and Catch the Fire get into the act (or, even scarier, the Act?) And will different religions then be competitively tendering for the souls of our children?

  3. May 23rd, 2005 at 11:09 | #3

    NSW SuperTahs!

  4. May 23rd, 2005 at 11:15 | #4

    cs, I really do hope it doesn’t all end in tears.

  5. James Farrell
    May 23rd, 2005 at 13:10 | #5

    Good point, Helen. I googled around unsuccessfully for the submission mentioned in the article. But I can’t see why education about religion wouldn’t have a place in a thorough, secular education. If the NSW primary curriculum had comparative religion in it I wouldn’t have to agonise whether to send my kids to ‘scripture’ to learn something about religion.

  6. May 23rd, 2005 at 13:11 | #6

    Heel, Liz, Heel. (My kelpie cross doesn’t listen either.)

  7. observa
    May 23rd, 2005 at 15:02 | #7

    Perhaps the rational secularists and the Godbotherers have something in common here http://www.theage.com.au/news/Science/Abortion-linked-to-premature-birth-risk/2005/05/15/1116095856708.html

    Perhaps Tony Abbott is the quintessential PC Health Minister after all?

  8. May 23rd, 2005 at 15:10 | #8

    buggered if i know what point observa is trying to make

  9. Katz
    May 23rd, 2005 at 15:16 | #9

    Time to stop overdosing on fox blood Liz.

    Victorian ALP factions have been tearing into each other since before Archbishop Mannix died.

    It’ll take more than that to make Robert (Does Anyone Have A Spare Personality) Doyle to the Treaury benches.

    Victorian politics will start to become interesting again when the Libs decide to send Doyle “to a good home on a farm”.

  10. Andrew Reynolds
    May 23rd, 2005 at 15:39 | #10

    Has anyone else noticed this? Look about half way down the article. It would be very interesting if Roe vs. Wade were responsible for the drop in crime in the US.

    It might give the Christian Right a quick dose of apoplexy.

  11. May 23rd, 2005 at 15:58 | #11

    I hate those sneering little asides about “political correctness” in the review of Freakonomics, though.

    As if those of us to the left of Tony Abbott are all going to be incredibly offended by the fact that a cohort of poor, poorly nourished, unread, chaotically raised children aren’t going to be brought into the world. Aren’t we supposed to be for equality?

    This is a distortion. There is nothing “politically incorrect” in the abortion-reduces-crime hypothesis. This is only a sadder part of the normal continuum of reproductive decisions, where parents decide to have children or not on the basis of their own perceived ability to raise them. The sad part is that sometimes they might not be too young or too drug dependent (in which case good on them for recognising the fact) but might simply decide their economic outlook is too dire (casual employment, low minimum wages, poor housing etc). This is the kind of decision middle class people also make, but much more absolute and urgent at the bottom of the income pile.
    We so-called “politically correct” lefties would like the poorer people to be less screwed so that abortion decisions would not have to hinge so much on substandard wages, housing and medical care.

  12. Andrew Reynolds
    May 23rd, 2005 at 16:23 | #12

    Perhaps if they were less screwed (or the other way around) there would be less need to take that decision.
    Just an observation.

  13. May 23rd, 2005 at 16:27 | #13

    LOL. I should have noticed that one (usually cull posts for accidental double entendres)

    Maybe I’ll be po-faced and literal and just mention in passing that abstinence NEVER works, and never has.

  14. observa
    May 23rd, 2005 at 16:46 | #14

    “buggered if i know what point observa is trying to make”

    Simply that God might move in mysterious ways observa my son? OTOH should I just feel morally superior that the Godbotherers were partially right about abortion for the ‘wrong’ reason?

  15. Andrew Reynolds
    May 23rd, 2005 at 17:08 | #15

    Abstinence works for those who practice it – the problem is that the subset who do are not the ones who need to.

  16. Ros
    May 23rd, 2005 at 18:02 | #16

    Freakonomics promises to be an interesting debate, with an Adelaide academic involved (John Whitley). Good stuff. The racial aspect does make me nervous however.
    I am also very strongly of the view that the argument for abortion should be about the rights of women versus the rights of potential, not actual human beings. If arguments such as abortion reduces crime are pursued, what is there to fall back on if, they are proved wrong (and there is that danger with this particular story) or, crime is no longer a major problem for example. Unlikely I know but I still feel that it is a dangerous argument to make on this issue.

  17. Dave Ricardo
    May 23rd, 2005 at 18:17 | #17

    Ros, it’s not an argument for abortion. It’s an argument about an interesting, and unpredicted, consequence of abortion. The case for abortion rights stands irrespective of any effect 20 years later on the crime rate.

  18. Ros
    May 23rd, 2005 at 18:18 | #18

    Henry Morgentaler a Canadian abortion practitioner claimed in 2004 the decrease in Canada’s violent crime statistics since 1991 “confirms again my theory that access to abortion” is responsible for the favorable numbers. Don’t know if he made any attempt to substantiate his claim. But in his case there was no possibility to conclude that LESS young BLACK men meant less crime.

  19. Dave Ricardo
    May 23rd, 2005 at 18:30 | #19

    I admit, I haven’t heard of Henry Morgenteler, but it isn’t his theory, it’s Levitt’s.

    Anyway what’s it got to with race? The claim is that access to abortion benefitted poor women who would otherwise have had babies who would have grown up to commit crimes, as people from poor backgrounds do, disproportionately.

    In the US, a large number of these people are black, as it happens, but they are disposed to committing crimes because they are poor and because they live in ghettoes, not because they are black as such. Middle class blacks don’t commit crimes any more than middle class whites.

  20. Ros
    May 23rd, 2005 at 18:40 | #20

    Can’t agree with you Dave. Levitt on his site argues that

    “The impact of legalized abortion on crime is a lot like global warming — it is slow and steady and grows a little year by year. Crack is like El Nino, it comes in with a fury and then largely disappears. That is why I have invested so much time and effort in understanding both abortion and crack, and why the criticisms made against the abortion-reduces-crime hypothesis to date have not been very compelling.â€?

    He is predicating something more than it is an interesting unpredicted consequence of abortion. His view appears to be that abortion reduces crime and is therefore a practice that results in good and should be unrestricted, and clearly practised.
    Your assessment does support the argument that if this human system is a complex adaptive system then this is one of the myriads of unpredicted outcomes. That is not all that Levitt is saying.

  21. May 23rd, 2005 at 20:06 | #21

    Ros, the expression “less young black men” means “older black men”. That is one reason why we have the word “fewer” for smaller integer numbers, so we can validly sort out which part of an expression is being qualified. Here, the context made it obvious – but it doesn’t always suffice.

  22. Jill Rush
    May 24th, 2005 at 00:14 | #22

    I have been contemplating the rise of governmental contracts and outsourcing along with the myriad ways that the financial system works. The Federal Government wants us to have yet more contracts for employment so that the mix becomes more complicated still.

    The down side of all of the contracts however is that it makes it almost impossible to get information in a cohesive way without a royal Commission – and there has to be the political will for that.

    With the increasing complexities of the contractual jungle, white collar crime could disappear as fraud, collusion to defraud and trading on the edge become ever more difficult to prove.

    So we move into a society where there can be plenty of secrets about money – whilst on the flip side we will have more surveillance of civil society. Could make a decent novel.

    I am not so sure about living it however as people become ever more frustrated by stories such as that being examined by the Kapunda Road Royal Commission. There was political will in this case created by the publicity which sold papers and created viewers. It is the exception.

  23. observa
    May 24th, 2005 at 00:28 | #23

    Ros says,
    “I am also very strongly of the view that the argument for abortion should be about the rights of women versus the rights of potential, not actual human beings.”
    Dave says,
    “The case for abortion rights stands irrespective of any effect 20 years later on the crime rate.”

    There are some threads here going back to Helen’s original post on teaching religion vs secularism in schools which may need teasing out. Some new ‘facts’(read statistical evidence and research) on abortion are an interesting case in point. Essentially these new facts are partially in agreement with many religious beliefs on abortion. Interesting to speculate where secular rationalists stand now on attitudes to abortion, assuming there are no such proven side effects from the freely available morning after pill. There may be other topical issues on which we have to decide what to teach in schools as factual. For example greenhouse and global warming is still a ‘factual’ work in progress. There are rational adherents and skeptics arguing today over the scientific evidence and consequent prescriptions, something which perhaps the religious Amish would chuckle knowingly to themselves about. They already have their interpreted solution and would brook no secular interference in passing that on to their children. Secular rationalists might also look rather stupid alongside Jehovah’s Witnesses if in 20 yrs time, blood transfusions and organ transplants unleash some unforseen genetic problems or even a super bug, if not of biblical proportions, then of popular science-fiction. Even religious Creationism may offer some insight into the fact that the rights of today, may well become the wrongs of tomorrow. It may only require some rational Evolution to discover that, which some claim as already a given to them.

  24. May 24th, 2005 at 10:14 | #24

    Observa,
    It doesn’t follow that because there are risks of complications with abortion, it follows that that is an argument against abortion per se. It is actually an argument in favour of clean, safe, legal abortion as opposed to criminalising it (or pricing it out of the reach of poorer women) and thus exposing them to shonky black market practicioners. It’s also in the same basket as virtually all surgical procedures: note the complications and think of ways to reduce them (should we outlaw appendectomies because of peritonitis?)

    On the other subject, if we find out that X is true and priests, imams, and witchdoctors have also been saying that X is true, that is (a) accidental or (b) the remnant of an ancient society attemting to interpret a natural phenomenon without the scientific or intellectual tools to do so – we don’t have that excuse.

    The religious tendency to oppose abortion is natural. To ancient societies, as far as births were concerned, more was better. As for female autonomy – “Huh”? Again, we have come to know better – although I don’t know if you’d agree.

  25. May 24th, 2005 at 10:18 | #25

    So much for your watch, it seemed my stopped clock was right all along.

  26. observa
    May 24th, 2005 at 12:10 | #26

    Helen,
    Personally I’m a maths, physics and chemistry man, as well as appreciating rational risk/return, but I’m well aware that has its limitations. More gifted men of science than me have quickly run into that problem. For all their science, they can’t even determine why the observa is heterosexual rather than homosexual, nor why he might be a neocon trog whilst his older sister is a Margo Kingston clone. As for Anthony’s clocks, some might say they’re a curious cultural anachronism, when their God has given him the sun and moon and the stars to order his life around. Creationists, greenies and global warming scientists and ecologists may have much wisdom in common to offer. Some might even say they share a similar religious fervour.

    “It doesn’t follow that because there are risks of complications with abortion, it follows that that is an argument against abortion per se. It is actually an argument in favour of clean, safe, legal abortion….”
    Well it does follow Helen, particularly when the downside is a result of clean, safe, legal abortion, although with full knowledge of the risks now, many might be prepared to continue with business as usual. However there could be a snag on the horizon. Suppose only chemical abortion was available whereas curettage was not and the risks now identified were the same? Would/should the drug companies withdraw from the market given this new knowledge about the risks? Probably they would given the legal liability. That’s the $64000 question WRT to clean, safe, legal abortion now. What will happen if some mother wins a hefty legal claim in future for a miscarried child, as a result of prior abortion? Do you really think our medicos would continue practising abortion under that legal cloud? If not, would the women’s autonomy advocates be prepared to argue for an exemption from legal liability for all abortion procedures? Now that would be an interesting tack, in light of some recent revelations at Bundaberg hospital. Of course, all this time, the christian pro-lifers will be nipping at their heels saying they told us so. Watch that space now Helen, because I’m sure some top barristers would have spotted the opening.

  27. observa
    May 24th, 2005 at 12:23 | #27

    I’d add here Helen, that you might begin to appreciate why we in business are not exactly gushing with enthusiasm over the retrospective sorry crowd and their barristers, particularly where epidemiological risk is concerned. As far as we’re concerned, until such time as society via government, decides a practice or product is banned, then the suppliers and producers should be free from retrospective litigation to trade.

  28. observa
    May 24th, 2005 at 12:47 | #28

    I’ll qualify the ‘free’ to trade bit for the usual naive suspects here
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,15376445-31037,00.html

  29. May 24th, 2005 at 13:57 | #29

    Observa – conflating insurance companies and ambulance chasing lawyers with “the retrospective sorry crowd and their barristers” is an odd thing to do.

    As a plain bluff man of business I am sure you appreciate the kinds of business regulations that the news article you cited is referrring to. Jill Rush has cited a significant bit above, as the newly free and flexible workplace disintegrates into a horrid flurry of contracts.

    The outsourcing beloved of our free enterprise friends is also gruesomely legalistic.

    Not to mention, of course, GST etc. Your lawyer and your accountant are laughing.

  30. May 24th, 2005 at 14:25 | #30

    Observa, your remarks at 23 have already come true to some extent, in relation to haemophiliacs who were forced into receiving AIDS-infected products by the threat of all treatment being withheld. This happened in the early AIDS days, when focussed haemophiliavs knew more about the risks than the medical establishment. I don’t know if any JW haemophiliacs were court-ordered into a death sentence that way, though.

  31. observa
    May 24th, 2005 at 17:01 | #31

    “conflating insurance companies and ambulance chasing lawyers with “the retrospective sorry crowd and their barristersâ€? is an odd thing to do.”

    Not when I qualified it by talking about epidemiological risks David. Engineering and regulatory safety risk is fairly well policed, quantifiable and insurable. The problem is the slow elucidation of risk eg drugs, tobacco, asbestos and perhaps now abortion? Courts are wise after the event with hindsight that our society via govt never possessed at the time.

  32. Ros
    May 24th, 2005 at 17:24 | #32

    What are these ? please. Is it some sort of virtual secret handshake?
    Helen appears to be busy so, Observa apart from material on propaganda sites I can’t identify these risks of induced abortion which I assume are considered to be greater than birth? As spontaneous abortion is measured at 1 in 36 women will have 2 abortions due to nothing more than chance this is clearly a considerable health risk, (pregnancy,) if it is the case that there are the adverse health outcomes you hint at.
    Your scenario of chemical abortion only, with, I assume you are saying, suction curettage being banned? Have I missed pressure for that to happen. Or are you referring to the possibility that raped women in war zones might be given chemical abortions without the facilities to follow through with curettage if it should be necessary? Hence the possibility of the full term delivery of severely deformed foetuses. Incomplete spontaneous abortions would presumably have to take their chances in such developments or circumstances in medical care availability..
    Thanks PM, my husband thought you were very witty.

  33. observa
    May 24th, 2005 at 21:34 | #33

    Ros,
    The research on increased risk of miscarriage due to previous abortion was described in the Age article I linked to in comment 7 above. I subsequently raised the hypothetical notion that IF this sort of result was solely due to abortion by chemical means, then most likely the drug companies would run a mile from it and withdraw from the market-place. (think VIOX recently) That is not the case, but there may be some legal complications with the current method in future. One successful litigation case would ruin any medico’s ability(think indemnity insurance) to continue to carry out abortions. This could prove to be the economic fait accompli that pro-lifers are morally seeking.

    Now you might think that is all a bit far fetched, but let me provide you with a little anecdote from the Adelaide news tonight. The Central Districts private hospital has advised prospective mums that all birthing at its hospital will cease at the end of the year when its last obstetrician retires. Private patients can deliver their bubs at the public Lyell McQuewin hospital and transfer back for after delivery private care. Do you get the picture about indemnity insurance for high risk obstetrics now? If you think govts are going to foot the bill for 100,000 high litigious risk abortions a year, then I’d suggest you haven’t been listening to Tony Abbott and Co lately(think IVF cost restrictions). In any case abortions don’t exactly sit well with 2-3 yr waiting lists for public elective surgery now. Cross your legs girls, the barristers aren’t too quick off the mark, drumming up business armed with the latest research. Welcome to the businessman’s dilemma me lefty darlin’s. User pays for ‘retrospective sorry’ indemnity premiums or you don’t get served.

  34. Ros
    May 25th, 2005 at 08:57 | #34

    The Central Districts thing, this South Australian has been conscious of the problem for rural families of the inaccessibility to obstetric care in rural hospitals for some time. As to the particular litigiousness of parents re birth, eg I heard a Melbourne obstetrician last year making the point that 50% of Melbourne practitioners at that time were facing litigation.

    Symptomatic of something more than damaged children? The high risk averse nature of affluent Australians combined with the primitive view that if something is not right it must be someone’s fault maybe. Vaccinations still and will continue despite a falling off and the hysteria about autism for example. As an aside I always found the, we haven’t vaccinated because of the risks mob extremely galling. Those who make that choice rely on sufficient others doing it to ensure that the far greater risk of diseases such as whooping cough or diphtheria (see what happened after the break up of the USSR) to their children are avoided by the actions, and risks taken, of the rest of us. Alternatively they are rather stupid.

    100,000 high litigious risk abortions a year, that figure of course includes treatment for incomplete spontaneous abortions, and clearly not all induced abortions result in further pregnancies being premature. There are a lot of questions re that study. To start with there are studies that show that race in the US means that there is a difference in premature birth rate, which of course just returns us to the initial discussion re abortion crime and poverty.

    Haven’t been listening to Tony Abbott. Oh yes this RWDB has. And her RWDB mates. If there is any attempt to scale back women’s right to abortion these RWDBs will be hitting the streets for the first time in their lives. Yep so RWDB that we didn’t join reconciliation or peace marches despite the opportunity for a chatty alfresco lunch and wine as a reward for our virtue. And Tony Abbott will now never be an acceptable leader of the Liberal Party for us ageing conservatives. And we have advised our husbands that the same applies to them. This is an issue of huge importance to a usually quiet mob and their daughters, even if most of said daughters could afford the plane trip to India as one choice if the need should arise.

    Any hope that certain religious may hold that such one off studies would give them an opportunity to repress women is a pipe dream.

    And I did vote Labor once. When only fourteen federal members voted for a relaxing of abortion availability and they were all Labor.

    I don’t know what these acronyms with question marks are.

  35. Elizabeth
    May 25th, 2005 at 09:20 | #35

    According to this article, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may well be injured. The articles goes onto quote a website attributing a comment to one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s ‘associates’: “”Islamic nation, brothers in unity, we pray God that our sheikh, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, recover from the wounds he has sustained,” said the statement issued in the name of the “information department” of Zarqawi’s militant organisation. May God heal you, the most dear of the mujahedeen (Islamic fighters). May God give you strength,” said the al-Qaeda Organisation in the Land of Two Rivers, without giving details on the extent of Zarqawi’s injuries or how they were inflicted.”

    Now, how come innocent Iraq’s butchered and maimed aren’t affored the same regard, as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is afforded? How come Abu Musab al-Zarqawi isn’t rushing towards matrydom? Why should this pathertic butcher’s life be spared?

    Rhetorical questions I know, but felt I had to vent.

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/World/Zarqawi-wounded-says-militant-website/2005/05/25/1116950707451.html

  36. Katz
    May 25th, 2005 at 09:42 | #36

    Maybe AMaZ doesn’t like black-eyed virgins.

    When, on the eve of GWII the Columbia space shuttle crashed and burned, Saddam Hussein opined that it was a judgement of God on the United States.

    Let me hasten to explain that Saddam’s opinion bemused me.

    However, this opinion enraged Bush. Now, if one believes in a God given to editorial comment, it seems that shuttle disasters might be the precise means by which S/He expresses Her/His opinion on current affairs. After all, the Old Testament is full of such instances.

    Perhaps Bush protested too much. Maybe he detected a germ of truth in Saddam’s divination of Divine Judgement.

    And, given the course of events in Iraq, just maybe …

    No, I must resist the temptation to compass God’s purposes.

  37. davidm
    May 25th, 2005 at 12:10 | #37

    Anyone read this article?
    http://afr.com/premium/articles/2005/05/24/1116700707338.html
    I don’t have an AFR subscription so I’ll probably buy the printed version later today, but here’s a snippet…

    “World property prices on a knife-edge” reports Corinne Lim. “The private sector is polarised about the global real-estate juggernaut. Bubble or no bubble? Gentle descent or crash? Safe bet or ticking bomb? Most economists have steered clear of disaster scenarios. But the froth in many markets refuses to subside despite the best efforts of policymakers, and some observers are rightly sweaty-palmed about a recent flare-up in speculative activity.”
    http://www.henrythornton.com/article.asp?article_id=3300

  38. Paul Norton
    May 26th, 2005 at 08:51 | #38

    Here’s a possible essay topic for a course in Comparative Political Ideologies:

    “A hypothetical political ideology maintains that a young woman who:

    “(a) has green eyes and pale skin;

    “(b) has a facial structure and body shape which conform to dominant Anglo-Celtic cultural standards of beauty;

    “(c) behaves in a manner which conforms to gender stereotypes of how the “weaker sex” should behave when in a stressful situation (e.g. weeping, fainting, etc.);

    “(d) conspicuously converts to Christianity;

    “is entitled to special efforts being made on her behalf by the government of her white Christian nation which would not be made on behalf of people in similar circumstances without this combination of attributes.

    “This ideology further maintains that the government of a nation inhabited by brown-skinned, brown-eyed Islamic people, in which the aforesaid woman has encountered legal difficulties, should defer to the wishes of the government of its white, Christian neighbour in a manner and to an extent which it would not do for others in similar circumstances without her combination of attributes.

    “Discuss the differences (if any) between this ideology and classical European fascism.”

  39. observa
    May 26th, 2005 at 11:32 | #39

    Ros,
    I was talking to a relative high up in health in an Adelaide metro hospital and she tells me their only gyny carrying out abortions is overdue for retirement with no prospective replacement. The litigation problem is not about the high profile court awards we hear about in MSM from time to time. That’s the tip of the iceberg, compared to what’s negotiated behind closed doors. We stopped all our construction work in kindys and schools after the HIH collapse due to horrendous liability premia we were quoted to continue any work in that field. You have to specialise and charge accordingly.

    Trips to India for obstetrics may not be that far away. Either that or offshore floating abortion clinics in international waters coming to a coast near you soon. You wants to play you gots to pay.

  40. Helen
    May 27th, 2005 at 10:55 | #40

    You wants to play you gots to pay.

    I hope you are including the male partner in that gleeful aside, Observa.

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