Psychadelic Kitteh samples new mushroom flavour Whiskas.

By skepticlawyer

… Courtesy the photoshoppery skillz of Sacha Blumen.

Oh yes, this is also the Weekend Chit-Chat thread.

Also: apologies for my sporadic blog presence, but I have been sorting out both my life and the house over the last week. As part of the process, even non-greenie me has been feeling guilty about the amount of paper that lawyers generate. The ‘paperless office’ of the future? As if!


  1. Mel
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, on Australia’s leading libertarian blog …

    Classical liberal Sinclair Davidson on Peter Singer’s Q’s Birthday gong:

    “Controversial ‘ethicist’ Peter Singer will be honoured by the Queen’s birthday list with the award of the prestigious Companion of the Order of Australia.

    Singer is known for his views on animal liberation and pro-euthanasia for the sick and unwanted. He has argued that infanticide is not immoral. His views on zoophilia may also surprise the general public. ”

    Then the libertarian faithful shout agreement from the pews. Here’s a few snippets:

    “its okay to fuck a sheep just don’t eat it?”

    “Let’s hope he [Singer] doesn’t weigh-in on marraige equality. Or has he? Have the spew bags ready just in case.”

    “Arise Sir Peter the Taswegian Sheep Fucker.”

    What is it about libertarianism and classical liberalism that attracts such diseased intellects?

  2. Mel
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink


  3. Posted June 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Rescued from the spammer! Sorry about that…

    Singer divides people, Mel – I’ve watched a room full of jurisprudential scholars at All Souls just about come to blows over his ideas. Indeed, some of his arguments are so out there I’ve periodically caught myself wondering if he engages deliberately in the intellectual equivalent of trolling (I’m thinking of the bestiality paper in particular).

  4. Posted June 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    What is it about libertarianism and classical liberalism that attracts such diseased intellects?

    I guess when you fail to find any ideologies that would judge your actions as something other than being a dick, you’re only left with supporting an ideology that deems it acceptable for you to be a dick in the first place.

  5. kvd
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with [email protected] Also, am wondering where you keep your cat at night? I couldn’t sleep with that thing anywhere near.

  6. Posted June 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s Sacha’s cat. I’m hoping he comments 🙂

  7. Mel
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Since right-libertarians place so much emphasis on property rights, I don’t see how they can sensibly object to bestiality with one’s own beast provided the beast isn’t significantly harmed in some way.

    I note senior figures in America’s Libertarian Party have adopted a pro-choice position on bestiality.

    I don’t see why Singer should be smeared with the label troll when all he has done is demonstrate the honesty needed to follow his principles to their logical conclusion.

  8. Posted June 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Actually, hadn’t even thought about the exams dimension… and I’ve marked a few in my time. Where do they finish up? Landfill?

    (In other news, I’m going to be tutoring a couple of subjects this coming year – one of them definitely jurisprudence, not sure about the others as yet. Maybe Roman and Evidence. I may come to regret this…)

  9. Posted June 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m disturbed by the amount of paper that gets used in the software engineering company I work for. You’d think if anyone could run a paperless office it’d be software engineers. However for some reason our testers think that the proper form for a bug report is broken English scrawled on a piece of paper and piled on my desk…

  10. Mel
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I was hoping for a rollicking good argument on the subject of bestiality but it seems like everyone here would much rather discuss paper. Crikey, you folks are boring 🙂

    Anyway, I guess I should find something more tasteful to do with my Saturday night ….

  11. Posted June 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    An exchange of legal opinions (pdf) in Queensland (via Tim Blair).

  12. Posted June 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Actually, my objection to bestiality is the same as my objection to Singer’s ethics–there is a problem of reciprocation.

  13. Posted June 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Inability to consent (consent and autonomy being important to classical liberals too) precludes legal or decriminalised bestiality for me.

    Lorenzo’s link: Ah yes, R v Baker, and poor old Justice Daubney (with whom I have had dealings in the past – a very decent fellow). That’s been doing the rounds of the legal profession for the last 72 hours (the thread on my facebook page is worth a look, for those of you who are my facebook friends).

    The trial’s gonna be a humdinger – standing room only in court (it’s still on the law list for next week), I suspect.

  14. conrad
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Mel, that is a weird conversation over at Catallaxy (although nothing out of the ordinary for them). Singer really has done people a favor — he’s shown that if you use level of sentience as a guide to evaluate life, you end up with a moral position almost all of the population won’t agree with. Daddy Dave (who I used to share a house with 15 years ago, and with whom I had conversations like this!) realizes this.

    This really is worthwhile, because the question of sentience comes up and is often used in many other areas, like euthanasia, when to pull life support etc. What the work of Singer suggests is that if you don’t like his arguments, then you shouldn’t be using the same ones for things like when to pull life support — yet this is what we do all the time (“he was braindead”).

  15. Posted June 9, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Why is the inability of animals to consent to bestiality a relevant consideration? Animals don’t consent to being eaten and that is presumably not a problem for classical liberals? Is there something about sexual intercourse that differentiates it?

  16. Posted June 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Not at all, Michael, which is why one of the most famous classical liberals of all (Robert Nozick) made a serious and very powerful argument in favour of vegetarianism (in Anarchy, State & Utopia).

    However, something everyone with any sense in a pluralistic society (not just classical liberals) realises is that it’s very, very difficult to get common agreement across enough of the population to make enforceable moral law without recruiting something other than philosophy and reason. When it comes to the present prohibition on bestiality that ‘other thing’ is the disgust reflex (which is also a moral response – see Jonathan Haidt’s work on the neurological basis for at least part of morality). My arguments about consent probably don’t wash with anyone other than classical liberals and maybe social democrats (who also tend to take this kind of thing fairly seriously).

    Remember, if you want people not to behave in a certain (moral) way and want to punish people for behaving in a certain way AND not have your legal system reduced to an unenforceable joke, then there really does need to be a lot of moral agreement on that point. This is because:

    1. Morality is bigger than law. There are lots of things that are (arguably) immoral that are not illegal. This is a good thing. Enforcing morality is bloody difficult. See: War on Drugs, Prohibition, anti-abortion laws… and we’ll stop there.

    2. There is no necessary connection between law and morality. What is moral about driving on the left or the right? Zip. Yet making a relevant law is hugely important if one wants an enforceable highway code.

    3. Both Singer and Nozick are interesting thinkers, but they also evince splendid arguments for keeping philosophers away from legislation. I will pause at this point to reference Bismarck’s joke about the making of both sausages and laws…

  17. Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Stalin managed his own “railway to nowhere” but done in the way you would expect.

  18. Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Argentina is trying to threaten the Kelpers into embracing their Argentinian destiny, or something.

    Will they go so far as to make Cameron PM popular? No, the rule is second time as farce.

  19. Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    I am reading The Man Without A Face: The unlikely rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen. Completely matter of factly, it covers that part of Putin’s duties while with the KGB in Dresden was transmitting information and assignments to the Red Army Faction terrorists.

    I can remember when it was very unkosher to suggest Soviet involvement in terrorism in Western Europe. Now, a Russian journalist interviews former RAF member for their recollections of the former KGB officer who is (again) President of Russia. The world is a different place.

  20. conrad
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    “My arguments about consent probably don’t wash with anyone other than classical liberals and maybe social democrats”

    I think it should be legal. If you kill/maim/imprison/eat etc. an animal, I don’t see what the real difference is, so in this respect I don’t see why the animal has to consent (they don’t to worse things, and I imagine for some animals that are about the right size, the experience presumably isn’t too much of a compararive bother). I think the utilitarian perspective on that is correct — We just don’t like to think about it because we don’t think humans should be doing that sort of thing.

  21. Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Ayatolllah Khomeini once considered the question if it was OK to eat an animal that someone you were related to had had sex with. (Apparently it is, after washing said animal.) The wonders of Sharia.

    On a very different note, an ecologist considers the problems of teaching non-linear causality to students. There is a link to a post by an economist on exactly the same problem.

  22. kvd
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    Well this is a very interesting thread. Maybe we need more hideous cat pictures? And my thanks to Mel for pointing to the Cat(allaxy) discussion, and I haven’t yet started on Lorenzo’s various links.

    Singer has always interested me, in that while his ‘end points’ can be quite confronting, I find it very difficult to decide just where in his logic chain my own views depart. It’s a bit like setting out from Sydney, knowing that Brisbane is the only destination yet ending up in Melbourne without quite knowing how you got hijacked. This is my failing, not Singer’s.

    I liked this comment on that other thread: “Moral principles unbound by intuition or empathy tend to lead to all sorts of strange and monstrous conclusions”. Unfortunately I am unable to untangle just why it is that I like it 😉

    SL, please thank Sacha for his pic; am presently hoping he neither eats the cat nor sleeps with it.

  23. Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The Eurozone is not the only place where public sector debt is spiralling to disaster. Try Detroit, which may literally run out of cash next week.

    Though it is amusing to see a conservative US commentator pointing to Australia as an example of better governance than the US is managing. I also liked the line:

    Detroit is evidence for the fact that the economic limitations on tax increases sometimes kick in before the political limitations do.

  24. Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    am presently hoping he neither eats the cat nor sleeps with it.

    kvd wins teh internetz for today! 🙂

  25. conrad
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo @23,

    I double dare him to try and teach psychology students non-linear causality!

  26. Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Ah, the voice of frustrated experience 😉

    I suspect one reason why I like economics is it helps explain history but is itself a series of fascinating puzzles. Not the least in the tension between making models too simple such that they mislead but not so complicated they become unmanageable or pointless.

  27. kvd
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] since you mention models, I was struck by just how much of the real world your ecologist-link-person had to remove from the mix to illustrate his point. It seems to me there’s a lot of that in economics as well. This is not an attack; just more a concern that your word ‘mislead’ sometimes becomes ‘misrepresent’. And those ‘unmanageable or pointless’ models are sometimes called ‘real life’.

    And also – how anyone could suggest your court transcript could be topped is quite beyond me. Please somebody make sure there is a follow up for episode two 😉

  28. Posted June 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink


    I think this

    Crittendon filed a lawsuit Monday saying the consent agreement was “void and unenforceable” because Michigan owes the city $224 million in revenue sharing plus unpaid water bills, parking tickets and other debts. The city charter forbids Detroit from entering into contracts with entities in default to the city, so Crittendon challenged the consent agreement.

    is a reasonable attitude for a chief legal officer to take and I wonder why the CFO doesnt take the same attitude.

    There may be a difference in the due date for the respective funds but surely better debtor control would be the first point of budgetry discipline, especially where the debtor is your major creditor.

    I have a sneaking suspicion the the state may find itself in financial difficulty if it did have to come up with the $224M immediately.

  29. Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    If this thread is anything to go by, I concur with kvd and will ask Sacha for more of the same.

  30. Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Ayatolllah Khomeini once considered the question if it was OK to eat an animal that someone you were related to had had sex with. (Apparently it is, after washing said animal.)

    But what if the animal got pregnant?

  31. kvd
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] then I guess you’d just invite Nigella to the feast.

  32. Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    That Catallaxy thread does get better in the middle, although the blog appears to have been colonised by a really thoughtless conservatism. Maybe that’s what comes of being linked to by Andrew Bolt all the time.

  33. John H.
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    That Catallaxy thread does get better in the middle, although the blog appears to have been colonised by a really thoughtless conservatism.

    I stated that on the Cat a few weeks ago but was ignored. The Cat has drifted away from debates of quality to constant attacks against individuals, demonisation of various groups, and has largely abandoned libertarian ideas. The sad truth is that now the Cat is amongst the worst advertisements for libertarian ideas. I am not a libertarian, at least economically, but we certainly must keep the libertarian flame burning because govts are going barmy on us.

  34. Mel
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Sinclair Davidson has actively courted Andrew Bolt in a not so savoury romance. I think Davidson is pretty much an intellectual harlot and a low life, whereas his predecessor Jason Soon had some appalling opinions and an ego the size of a small planet but at least he was intellectually honest and had some principles.

    Anyway, Catallaxy serves as a constant reminder of what an ugly place the world would be if it was under the dominion of conservative/libertarian ideology. That’s why I still read it.

  35. Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] ‘Misrepresent’ has an intentional element to it that makes it an awkward descriptor. By ‘mislead’ I meant, get reality wrong in a seriously misleading way.

    There is a genuine problem with models. You have to model, otherwise there is no analytical rigour. But there is a clear sacrifice in correspondence to reality. There is a trade-off there to manage.

    One of the curses of our time is the worship of computer models, as if lots of processing power and fancy equations = reality. All a model can do is show you the consequence of your premises; computing power enables greater capacity to process data and handle internal complexity but it does not take you beyond your premises.

    Such models can be tremendously useful in revealing implications of your premises you were not aware of, but that is still not taking you beyond your premises (though it may lead to better ones).

    Engineering models have an extremely good knowledge base to work from, and deal with relatively specific phenomena.

    Get into financial or climate models, and you are in a very different realm. The former because you are dealing with active agents who can react to the model. The latter because the climate is such an enormously complex system, much of which is still ill-understood.

  36. Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] When you get to Detroit’s level of dysfunction, trying to work out which bit to unravel first is, how do we say, challenging.

    But starting with following the law (particularly the bit about making sure institutions pay their bills) sounds like a good place to start. It has the advantage, in Detroit, of being a novel approach.

    One of the unsung Australian reforms was the Commonwealth government greatly tightened up the speed at which it paid private contractors. The final straw seems to have been when a local IT firm in Sydney won a big Commonwealth contract and then was bankrupted because the Commonwealth couldn’t be bothered to get around to paying in any sort of reasonable time frame.

  37. Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Those who hunger for a kindler, gentler libertarianism might try the bleeding heart libertarians blog. The liberaltarian experiment does not seem to have got very far, however.

  38. Posted June 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    A study in how not to do social science research.

  39. Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    The BHL blog is excellent, and not just because lots of Institute for Humane Studies people are involved 🙂

  40. kvd
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    [email protected] I meant ‘misrepresent’ only in the sense of not properly representing ‘the world being modelled’, but I take your point. Anyway, hot off the press is this from Ross Gittens, the final para of which reads:

    The unvarnished truth – which none of us can admit, even to ourselves – is we think we know what’s happening in the economy, but we don’t. We’re too fallible, and it’s too big and complicated.

    BTW that economics link from your ecologist link gave a very good explanation of ‘self fulfilling expectations’ I thought. Something you always bang on about – rightly it seems 😉

  41. Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    [email protected] On the Ross Gittens point, there is some clever economics about why prediction is problematic.

    And Nick Rowe (the economist in the link from the ecologist) is very good. He did not invent the Chuck Norris metaphor (that was Lars Christensen, whose Market Monetarist blog is also very good) but he ran with it. I have learnt a lot from reading both of them.

  42. Mel
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorenzo. The BHL site is worth a read.

    BTW, did you read this Catallaxy thread on the evils of gay marriage?

  43. Mel
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink


  44. Mel
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Are you familiar with this guy, Lorenzo? From my amateurish perspective, he appears to make enough sense to be worth a read.

  45. Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] I am slightly familiar; I have occasionally read his blog and he pops up saying reasonable things on various blogs I read. Also, his bloglist is worthy. And yes, he does make sense enough to be worth a read.

  46. John H.
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink


    Just saw this about those studies on children in same sex marriages. The conclusion is that no definite conclusions can be drawn. In any event I think these studies are too often crap, the subject matter is too political and social science has been largely ruined by politicization of research.

    Fed up with all gay related issues. Don’t have a problem with them raising children just confused as to why anyone would want to raise children. Don’t know why but even by my late teens I was convinced I did not want children. Gays raising children represents far less risks than children being raised in poor socio-economic environments. The data is unambiguously clear as the blue sky bleedin’ obvious in that regard but I don’t hear these same social scientists screaming about that injustice. For the sake of the children? No, this is just bigotry dressed up as science.

  47. Mel
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    John H:

    “The conclusion is that no definite conclusions can be drawn. In any event I think these studies are too often crap, the subject matter is too political and social science has been largely ruined by politicization of research.”

    But this doesn’t mean that researchers are necessarily being dishonest (altho some obviously are). Also, the issue isn’t the politicization of social science, rather the problem is the inherently political nature of the subject matter of social science. You can’t separate politics from social science any more than you can separate wetness from water.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *