[Published at Catallaxy Files 27/11/2020]
Edsgar Dijkstra became a programmer in 1951. He is one of the early giants in a field that saw an unprecedented explosion of intellectual activity. When multi-processing came to computing, the phenomenon of deadlock began to make a pest of itself. Processes would just sieze up, something that anyone with a personal computer or smartphone has probably observed. Dijkstra studied this problem, and in one of his simple, elegant expositions, showed that systems reached a point of no return before there are indications of trouble ahead. Processes could do essentially the same things thousands or millions of times without problems, then two or more of them would deadlock, no one of them able to continue. Until that happened, there would be no warning; yet, at some earlier moment the rubicon had been crossed, and it was only a matter of time.
There has always been a contempt for the rubes within the ruling class. Different rules have always applied. There has at least since the advent of mass media been manipulation of public opinion. Powerful agencies of government have always chafed against the restraints of law and representative government. There has been a widespread awareness of this malignancy – it is part of the background, it is part of what is thought of as normal. It is an assumption for those who have disconnected entirely from the “news” and the goings-on of politics, as it is for those who make their living, on way or another, from politics. So it is that no-one noticed any change in the character of the times. The Zeitgeist flailed and raged much as it had before. Continue reading “Deadlock”
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a philosopher, economist and writer on jurisprudence. He is most well-known for his development and expounding of utilitarianism. He considered that the object of legislation should be “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Bentham was an atheist, and a strong proponent of the separation of Church and State. In 1827, John Stuart Mill edited Bentham’s writings on jurisprudence into the five volume Rationale of Judicial Evidence.
His opinion concerning the seal of confession is of topical interest. In Rationale, Bentham considers the case where priests can be forced to testify concerning any felony, but the application to the case of child sexual abuse is obvious, though less widely applicable.
Bentham takes as context for his arguments a country in which Catholicism is “barely tolerated,” and its withering desired, though no coercion is applied to that end; for example, the United Kingdom of the early nineteenth century. Of countries where Catholicism is granted equal standing with other religions – contemporary Australia for instance – he writes that the necessity of protecting the seal of confession “will probably appear too imperious to admit of dispute.” Apparently not. Continue reading “Jeremy Bentham on the seal of confession”
First written 11th June 2020. Submitted unsuccessfully to Quadrant and Catallaxy Files.
Black Lives Matter has its own website. That’s no surprise. The About page summarises BLM (Emphasis mine.)
#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.
Continue reading “Black Lies Matter”
[Originally published by Quadrant Online on 30th December 2019. Published in Quadrant Magazine March 2020.]
The conviction of the guilty is just; it is the unremarkable business of a just criminal jurisprudence; but the conviction of the innocent strikes at the heart of Justice. If it happens through error or negligence, it is bad enough; when it happens by design, it is an abomination that corrodes trust in the law itself.
Maimonides in the 12th century, in this commentary on Exodus 23:7 (Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked) concluded, “it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent man to death once in a way.”
Continue reading “The Burden of Proof and the Pell Case”
[Published in Quadrant April 2019, and on Quadrant Online as Memoirs of an Abused Altar Boy, which included links to various documents.]
…so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In May of 2015, the royal commission came to town, and opened
public hearings in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday the 19th,
with Justice McClennan presiding. Counsel Assisting, Gail Furness SC, outlined
the evidence that was expected to be given, and a number of victims gave
evidence about the abuse they suffered. The next day’s proceedings opened with
the evidence of Gordon Hill about his abuse at the hands of priests and nuns
while he lived at St Joseph’s Home in Sebastopol near Ballarat. He was followed
by number of other witnesses, some of whom alleged that they had informed the
then Father George Pell about abuse centred on the Ballarat East parish, where
Pell was, for some time, an assistant priest. David Ridsdale also repeated his
allegation that Pell attempted to bribe him to keep quiet about his abuse at
the hands of his uncle, the then Fr Gerald Ridsdale.
Continue reading “The Willing Suspension of Disbelief”
[An edited version of this article was published in Quadrant Online as Bile! You’re on Qatar’s Candid Camera.]
Two weeks ago, Comedy Central’s Jim Jefferies responded to the Christchurch massacre with a hit piece on Avi Yemini, who is one of the emerging breed of conservative citizen reporters producing videos on social media. Jefferies had interviewed Yemini a few months prior to the massacre, but rushed his heavily edited footage to air as an exposé of Australian white supremacism. It was built around a portrayal of Yemini as an anti-Muslim activist and an anti-black racist.
Unfortunately for Jefferies, Yemini had secretly recorded their conversation. When Jefferies had aired his ambush, Yemini followed suit with a short series combining segments from Jefferies’ piece with unedited sequences from his own. The results are devastating for Jim Jefferies and Comedy Central, as you can see here.
Continue reading “Video Secrets”
[First published in Quadrant Online as Gender Quotas, Merit and Faux Equality.]
Since the outbreak of #metoo hashtagging in the Federal
parliamentary Liberal Party, Peta Credlin (among others) has been promoting targets for Liberal women in
Parliament. Simultaneously, she decries quotas as promoted by, for example, the
Labor Party. Women, she says, don’t want
a handicapping system for men; women want to win entirely on their own merits;
women don’t want to walk into the party room aware that there were better
candidates whose shoes they are not quite filling; etc, etc, etc. Women who are like Peta only want to get into
Parliament by their own honest and honourable efforts.
Continue reading “Men, Improved”
[First published in Quadrant Online as ‘Slut-Shamed’ Victimhood’s Loose Logic]
ScoMo is a man.
Therefore, ScoMo is mortal.
Is there anything wrong with this argument? A stickler for logical forms would insist that the first premiss should be All men are mortal. Fair enough. But if you put the initial form of the argument to a large sample of Australian voters, how many would object? A statement like men are mortal will generally be accepted as a class attribution.
Now try this one.
Continue reading “Men Are Mortal”
The bills I discuss below were withdrawn on the 27th of February, 2017, because they faced almost certain defeat. The issue of reform was referred to the Queensland Law Reform Commission.
Two related private member’s bills are currently before the Queensland Parliament. The Abortion Law Reform (Women’s Right To Choose Bill) 2016 removes abortion from the Queensland Criminal Code, lock stock and barrel. This is necessary, as the Explanatory Note makes clear, because “[t]he current law in Queensland is causing great hardship and personal suffering.” Further, according to Dr Carolyn De Costa, “This is the only health procedure that is dealt with like this in criminal legislation. It’s way, way out of date and belongs in the 19th century. We’re practising medicine in the 21st century.” The “Benefits of the Bill” include the following. “The Bill will repeal outdated laws that can criminalise women and doctors for a basic human right and a medical procedure…These archaic laws are dangerous and have no place in modern society where women should always have control over their own bodies. This Bill will protect vulnerable Queensland women and the doctors that are currently risking prosecution to assist them.”
Continue reading “A Modest Amendment”
Brendan O’Neill raises a point which I have never heard in the discussion before, but which I have always felt is critical. This unprecedented redefinition of the basic building block of human society rewrites the contract that the State entered into with every currently married person. How’s that for retrospective legislation? I will return to this point below.
Continue reading “Redefining marriage”