Al Schiavo

"The Muslim fundamentalists use a provision of Islamic law called ‘bringing to account’ (hisba)… Hisba is a medieval idea that had all [but] lapsed when the fundamentalists brought it back in the 1970s and 1980s. In this practice, any individual can use the courts to intervene in the private lives of others."Juan Cole

As Dr Cole notes, it’s lucky that we in the West have gone far beyond such medieval practices.

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Shorter Harry’s Place

"The only editorially independent Arab TV station might have to close. Wahey! Now the Arabs will have to believe what we tell them."

I don’t understand why anyone sane would want Al Jazeera to close down. Then again, I don’t understand why anyone purporting to represent the forces of civilisation would deliberately bomb the station’s offices, so maybe I just need to get with the programme.

Viva fascism. Down with journalists who disapprove of government plans. Destroy people who oppose the Iraqi occupation. Is that better?

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Counterfeit article

The Times has something that purports, perhaps misleadingly, to be a story with the angle that counterfeit goods are being used to fund Al Qaeda.

Author Jon Ungoed-Thomas has mostly reproduced bullshit talking points from the luxury goods firms (e.g. ‘Arab counterfeiters might give money to Muslim charities, which might fund terrorists’), instead of actually investigating whether there’s any evidence that counterfeit goods are, err, being used to fund Al Qaeda.

Intellectual property-related industries have trouble arguing for tighter controls on and enforcement against copying. The reason they have trouble is that virtually nobody in their right mind actually believes copying software or making fake luxury goods is wrong, unless you try and rip people off by selling them as genuine.

So how can you make people stop buying fake items? Simple. We all hate the terrorists – so put together three or four luxury goods PR men, an IP cop who really should know better (presumably he’s annoyed about having the most lame and pointless job in the entire police force), a heavily-deadlined journo who isn’t going to question them too much – and lo, you have a page of propaganda.

One of the IP people in the article does, tangentially, mention a sane argument against buying fakes: "people need to think about… the often appalling conditions in which these items are produced". Presumably the anti-counterfeiting brigade rejected this talking point partly because they think we’re all too sick to give a monkey’s about Third World suffering unless we think the darkies are going to come and kill us (which is pretty much the case), and partly because that might make us think about the luxury goods firms’ own contractors too.

(article via Eric)

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Anyone who brings up the gulags (or anything else about the horrors of the not-even-vaguely-social-democratic Soviet Union), in an argument about conservative versus social democratic politics, should immediately be sent to them.

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No it won’t

"Bush Signs Bill That May Let Schiavo Live" – ABC News. No, it’ll allow her body to continue to vegetate. The ‘living’ stopped around 15 years ago.

I know this is a contentious assertion: that’s rather the point. This case involves a major disagreement between the people who (claim they) believe withdrawing life support involves killing a real person, and people who think that it doesn’t. Given that, the ABC headline is rabidly biased towards the former, religious-Republican perspective, which is odd given that we know the mainstream media is Evil and Lib’rul.

On the plus side, the American people have demonstrated a surprising [*] degree of sanity over the whole case: "70 percent of Americans say Congress’ action was inappropriate and 67 percent thought the elected officials were trying to keep Schiavo alive were doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or the principles involved".

[*] Surprising because pseudo-moral shit-stirring often leads to the public claiming to believe ridiculous things, not because I expect Americans to be any more stupid than members of the public elsewhere.

Update: via Simon in the comments, read this Obsidian Wings post.

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God is wise

A new study has found yet more evidence that young people who take virginity pledges are no less likely to get STDs than those who don’t take them. Relatedly, they are also more likely to have oral and anal sex than non-pledgers.

This isn’t so much of a problem. Not only are oral and anal sex fun (unlike abstinence, which is not), they are thorougly approved by God. Hooray for fundamentalism!

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Attack of the killer liberals

DumbJon is incensed at the fact that the Chief of Defence Staff isn’t a crazy right-wing bigot.

I like the implicit mental dilemma Jon is wrestling with here. "But… the head of the army must be brave… and we know all liberals are spineless and craven… so the head of the army must have been made to lie to appease the liberals… because he couldn’t possibly believe it himself…"

While I’m visiting the more insane bits of the right, this guy manages to combine Daily Mail-reader-ish crime-paranoia (I’m seriously tempted to commit some kind of horrible crime against the next idiot who tells me they’re worried about crime – purely as a way of validating their otherwise untenable position. of course), with the most impressive strawman argument ever.

He claims the liberal mantra is "punishment does not deter". What? Many liberals believe capital punishment doesn’t significantly deter compared to life imprisonment. Many liberals believe it’s unwise to exaggerate the rationality of criminals (particularly the ones who commit the horrendous axe-beheadings, random stabbings and child-murders that stupid people use as examples of how Things In General are fucked up) and thereby assume that there’ll be a direct inverse correlation between lavels of punishment and levels of crime.

However, I’ve never encountered a liberal, socialist, communist, anarchist or leftist of any other type who believed punishment didn’t deter – in other words, who believed that people’s ability to get away with doing things had no influence on their willingness to do them. There is no such person, obviously, and it’s a sign of some combination of desperation and insanity that the author has to make them up…

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Michael ‘fucking’ Howard

"It’s nice to see that Michael Howard regards dabbling in other people’s misery as a valid election strategy. Not content with being merely unpopular, he seems to want to become the most despised man in Britain. It’s hard to see how he can increase his level of personal repulsiveness at this stage. Except perhaps by calling for gypsies to be gassed." – The Friday Thing

The latter is scheduled for next Thursday.

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Musings on terrorism

I’ve been re-reading Get Your War On. It’s a window back to the brief time in 2001-02 when sensible people feared terrorists more than we feared our own governments.

Those days are gone – and despite the governments’ best efforts to keep us scared, it would be very hard to bring them back. A Madrid-style bombing in London wouldn’t do it: a 200 in 8,000,000 chance of terror death is entirely bearable. Not even a 9/11 reprise featuring Big Ben would do it, if only because it would have happy side-effects [*]. We know that sort of thing has happened in the past; we’re already as scared of it as we’re going to be.

So in order to make any difference to Western attitudes, terrorists would need to do something very fucked up indeed. A dirty nuclear bomb is a possibility: although the actual casualties and damage would be negligible, people get scared when they hear the ‘nuclear’ word.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much smallpox or a real nuke.

This is good, in that it makes it unlikely that our fellow citizens will be panicked by the next exploding fanatic into acquiescing to the abolition of any more of our rights than they already have. However, it’s bad in that it indicates the only rational move for would-be exploding fanatics is to kill *millions* of people.

[*] The death of Charles Clarke would be particularly welcomed. Cunt.

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