Why Mr Brooks is an idiot

"When Warren wrote the Brown decision, it took the segregation issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that’s always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn’t have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate." – Michael Berube channels David Brooks

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What politicians *should* be saying

"We noticed recently that while most dangerous substances and activities are legal – including skiing, scuba diving, sushi, and ice cream sundaes – there seems to be a loophole whereby we forgot to legalize marijuana, opium, and some other drugs.

"As a result, we find ourselves incarcerating people simply because they are walking around carrying a little bit of a substance that they later might want to consume. We must close this dangerous loophole immediately, before we end up putting hundreds of thousands of Americans in prison for activities that don’t harm others." – Vice Squad

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A jelly jar of kerosene

"The captain of your bowling team is on trial for being an arsonist and the rest of you are ready to take a vote of no confidence in his leadership. You’re going to have to go to his house and tell him tonight….

"Tomorrow you’ll be elected captain of the bowling team and tomorrow night he’ll burn down your house, your car, and the big tree that gives your house shade."

Girls Are Pretty is close to spectacular. Oh, and the equally excellent Everything Reviewed has moved to godhatesgod.com.

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Boris Johnson: liar

Boris Johnson has been out meeting, or possibly pretending to meet, the public. He found a head council sweeper, and grilled him, or possibly pretended to grill him, on how much tax he paid.

"For a fortnight’s work… he received gross pay of £542. He had to pay tax of £161, and then National Insurance contributions of £86. And then he had to find about £50 per fortnight for his council tax, because he was in Band D, and therefore paying the thick end of £1,200 per year. Add it all up, and it strikes me that my new friend the road cleaner is paying well over 50 per cent of his income in tax."

Now, I lived on the same, not-very-high wage as the sweeper when I was a novice journalist a few years ago, so this immediately triggered my bullshit detector. And it was right to do so: Boris’s claim that his new friend is paying income tax at 30% plus National Insurance at 16% plus council tax at 9% is absolute nonsense. On an annualised income of £13,550, a single man with no other allowances pays tax at an annual rate of £1,694.70 plus £969.98 in National Insurance. Adding in council tax produces a total tax bill of £3864.68, or 28.5% of his income. [*]

Boris Johnson is lying. The Tory policy of scrapping council tax revaluations is insane. And this is priceless: "Who is he paying for, this man who sweeps our roads? He is helping out of his small income to pay for the myriad people who have been hired by the Labour government to work in the public services". Err, yeah. I guess it’s possible that Boris’s friend is a private freelance sweeper…

[*] Figures calculated here (not 100% reliable, but not far wrong). And I know that I’m not counting employer-side NI – should anyone be bothered to work out what difference that makes, I’ll happily post it as an update.

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Swivel-eyed loonery

There are mad people on the right. (Oklahoma bombing the work of homegrown fanatics? Nosiree, it’s gotta be those goddamned Ay-rabs…)

And there are mad people on the left. (Reichstag fire-ishly, Bush planned 9/11, or was it the Mossad…?)

The Internet is agreeably balanced, even if the people who publish articles on it aren’t.

Update: according to his own supporters, Bush is covering up the dodgy furriners’ involvement in the Oklahoma bombing because he’s worried that, if he admits McVeigh was wrongly executed, he won’t be able to wrongly execute people in future. That’s *according to his own supporters*.

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Ambition for today

I want to be "accompanied by a shocking entourage of assorted reprobates, including a fire-eater, a mulatto fortune-teller, a chimney-sweep, a village idiot, a cardinal, several snuff-addicts, and a mischievous Barbary ape".

I also want to be as good a writer as the Onion’s contributors

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Google good, but bad

Good news everybody: Google has UK-ised its Local and Maps services. The local search is better than anything I’ve ever used, and the maps interface is far better than Streetmap (realtime scrolling – wahey!).

So, this is where I’m off to tonight, and this is how I’m going to get there (unless I get lazy and take some form of public transport…)

Unfortunately, the mappers have made some slightly odd decisions about what to include on their greater-scale maps. Spot the missing city. Diamond Geezer has more (latter via Gert).

I bet the developers are fucking Tabs.

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Does Suicide Girls have a print edition?

Scottish young women are topping themselves in record numbers. They still haven’t caught up with young men, though. How come the government is so keen on closing the employment gap, but has done so little to end this terrible gender imbalance?

The study holds teen magazines partly responsible for the rise. I don’t recall any teen magazines directly advocating suicide (unlike this lot), but I can see where the researchers are coming from. Last time I read More, I certainly lost the will to live.

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Benedict XVI

We have a new pope. And he’s a fucking mentalist.

Comments like "Cardinal Ratzinger has been criticised for his disapproval of abortion and homosexuality" are silly. Of course he disapproves of them; so do most Catholics (some might say ‘all Catholics’, depending on how liberal their inclusion criteria are).

However, that’s not the issue: the issue is that, unlike previous modern-era popes, Benedict XVI’s key traits are "authoritarianism, hostility to modernity, assertion of papal supremacy and quashing of internal debate and dissent" (Sully). The problem isn’t that he’s not a modernist – it’s that he’s a Counter-Reformationist…

Best-case scenario: Benedict XVI will follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor Benedict IX, and sell the position to someone less loony.

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Something has gone very badly wrong

Dsquared draws our attention to this study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which suggests that 13% of US Army soldiers in Iraq believe themselves to have killed a civilian.

Very back-of-the-envelope-ishly, dsquared works out that this involves 60,000 deaths *directly* attributable to coalition troops (before you take into account the rising mortality rate from disease and lack of medical care) – higher than in the Lancet study. While this extrapolation is far too rough to actually make that claim, it certainly provides significant support for the order of magnitude of excess deaths claimed in the Lancet study.

Inevitably, the more ignorant pro-war-ites will critique this study as only they know how ("but they only interviewed 894 soldiers! That means there might only be 116 soldiers who’ve killed any civilians at all!", etc), while the less ignorant ones will quietly ignore it.

This is unfortunate: everyone on whatever side needs to accept that the Iraq war (irrespective of how noble its aims and irrespective of Saddam Hussein’s undeniably great evil) has been a massive fuckup and is something that we should never, ever do anything like again.

Update: Peter C points out that if you support the war for political/strategic reasons and don’t care about what happens to the Iraqis, then you can still believe it was a good idea. Fair play.

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