In an ideal world…

…it would be Paul Dacre, and not the unfortunate Maxine Carr, who needed protection from crazed foam-mouthed vigilantes.

Update: as Chris points out, you should substitute “less rubbish” for “ideal” in the headline above.

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One of the most annoying things about the current wave of pointless security measures at airports is the hypocrisy, as illustrated by this story found via Natalie Solent.

As long as duty free shops exist in their current form, there is no logic in banning people from carrying anything less dangerous than a broken vodka bottle – which is quite dangerous.

There are three possible explanations for this discrepancy. One is that terrorists will tend to be fundamentalist Muslims, and therefore can’t bring themselves to drink alcohol. I quite like this theory, especially since it implies the best way to ensure airline security would be to compel everyone to drink whiskey shots at check-in and turn away the weirdos who refuse. However, I’d question its real-world applicability.

The second possibility is that airport and airline authorities are really, really, really stupid, and therefore haven’t registered that this is a possibility. While it’s true that most people who work in airport security, and many people who work in airport management, are really, really, really stupid, I’m optimistic enough to believe that this doesn’t apply to all of them – and once one airport had registered that there was a problem, the news would tend to spread around the airport community.

A third explanation is that it’s not the airport people who are stupid, but the average member of the public: while airport security is an annoying waste of time that has no impact on safety, it makes people who don’t know this feel more comfortable travelling. The airports, understandably if cynically, are happy to indulge them without impacting their duty free margins. This explanation has the added plausibility advantage that people tend to be scared of flying and not cars, even though flying is around a hundred times safer per kilometre travelled.

…and this is why airport security (along with most nannying rules and laws) really annoys me. I don’t appreciate having to waste my time, effort and money, or be forbidden from doing things I want to do, for no reason other than to placate stupid people.

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Boo to Fibber Magee

Irish pub Fibber Magee’s has given up its civil disobedience campaign against that country’s deranged anti-smoking laws.

I understand that its management don’t necessarily want to take on the might of the Irish legal establishment, backed up by a wide range of international public health busybodies. Shame though. IA(VM)NAL, but a well-funded appeal to the European Court of Human Rights at least *could* have a chance – and would prevent governments and busybodies elsewhere in Europe from imposing such measures in future.

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Another brick

In perhaps not the most surprising ruling ever, the Israeli wall has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice.

This is right and proper. The security situation has become so bad that a wall to keep murderous bastards out of Israel is necessary. An absurd wiggling wall that means settlements in the occupied territories don’t have to be knocked down isn’t.

In some ways, it’s ironic that many of Israel’s problems stem from being a democracy: if Arik didn’t depend on votes from right-wing elements, he could just have all the settlements disbanded, retreat to pre-1967 borders, build a huge wall, and everything would be better for all the non-crazy non-settling Israelis and the non-crazy non-self-exploding Palestinians alike.

Stupid vaguely relevant joke: “I always used to annoy my Israeli flatmate by giving him all the mail that came addressed to ‘the occupier’.”

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Well hang me upside down

There are two responses to the Afghan freelance jail. The first one is simply “dude, WTF?”. The second is “oh yeah, that makes sense”.

It’s maybe even predictable that if you take an incredibly poor country, overthrow the most evil government ever (I don’t really want to be ranking the Taliban against Hitler and Pol Pot, but one could make a good case for them), put absolutely nothing in its place, and then offer enormous bounties for members of the old regime, a bunch of crazies will descend, abduct people they think might know a few things, and torture them until the reward money is in sight.

I’m so proud of myself for backing this war.

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Libertoonian foolery

Once-sensible English libertarian Alice Bachini has moved to Texas. Sadly, she appears to have lost her sanity with the move (perhaps the immigration measures require it – “you are now arriving in Texas. Please dispose of any traces of sanity before you clear Customs”).

She says that the story of the anti-‘war-on-terror’ left is an ‘I’m alright, Jack’ one. If she was referring to solidarity with oppressed Arabic women and workers, she might have a point (not necessarily a correct one, but a point). But no – she believes that the antiwar left “long to hide in comfortable castles on money purloined from big businessfolk, while the big businessfolk get blown up as targets in the WTC or kidnapped and beheaded in the Middle East“.

Jesus Christ. So the reason I don’t think Islamic terrorism is worth suspending all (or indeed, any) of our hard-won civil liberties for is because the only people who will lose out are the CEOs and the investment bankers, and I think they deserve it?

I’m generally quite bad at telling the difference between genuine libertarians and satirists. But just because I feel like these things need to be said… the WTC was an amazingly unusual terrorist act; the people who get killed by terrorists are generally The Masses. The people who are getting kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq are contractors taking home $80-150K a year – maybe they’re getting double what they’d earn in the US or UK as a risk premium, but it’s hardly wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

I object to increased security measures because I’d rather take the (still absolutely miniscule) risk that I or someone I love were exploded by crazed Islamists [1] than see the government abolish due process, clamp down on dissent, and generally make life worse for us. I’d rather be able to turn up for planes 30 minutes before they leave, and not have to get my shoes X-rayed [2].

And that’s got absolutely sod-all to do with CEOs and investment bankers.

[1] My chances of this are probably higher than average given that my dad’s currently working in Kuwait, but this isn’t the point.

[2] If an airline offered this and made me sign a waiver saying I wouldn’t sue them if I were blown up, I’d take it.

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Good communists

The shrill and unfunny Poor Man has an excellent post on why it’s moronic to criticise 1930s figures for supporting communism (short summary: in the West, many people were dying of capitalism, which was rubbish; we didn’t know that even more people were dying of communism at the same time).

The only factor I’d add to his analysis is that Stalin was fucking cool.


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Criminal mastermind

I utterly doff my cap to this anonymous Essex crook. He wandered into his local Trading Standards Office to say “pssst – anyone interested in some moody DVDs?” The answer was yes, although not quite in the way he expected.

An awesome piece of criminal stupidity, surely to be misquoted, relocated to America, and circulated on annoying group emails until the end of time, civilisation, or both.

One thing that confused me, though: is it considered normal for crooks to go round offices selling dodgy gear? Surely this sort of thing is normally done in dodgy pubs, on eBay and at car boot sales…?

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Get back to your golf

While I’m sure the British Medical Association’s members generally do good for society (except the ones who dispatch senior citizens by morphine injection, etc), its attempts to influence public policy are wrongheaded in the extreme.

Its latest idiocy follows a National Statistics Office poll showed that only 20% of Brits think smoking should be banned in pubs. Another 36% think there should be smoking/non-smoking areas.

If the BMA weren’t evil motherfuckers, they would have react to the survey by saying something like “smoking makes you die horribly. Passive smoking can have a similar effect. People should have the right to choose whether or not they are exposed to cigarette smoke, and we want to ensure that a non-smoking option is always available”.

Instead, they said “What we don’t know is whether people who were surveyed were told designated smoking areas do not work.”

I’m thinking not, since it’s a lie, and also doesn’t anwer the point that the public disagree with the BMA’s silly authoritarian message. Hopefully their propaganda won’t change anyone’s mind going forward…

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