Freedom? Not round here

It’s become unfashionable to point out that some armed Islamic militants are genuinely freedom fighters, in that they’re fighting against terrible injustice and for freedom. Apparently, if people who share some of your views kill a bunch of Americans, then you’re a terrorist forever, no matter how justified your aims and how restrained your methods.

As a result, we have a bloke imprisoned indefinitely in the UK for helping the rebels in Chechnya. The logic seems to be that since he’s a Muslim, and the Russians are our allies, then it’s only a matter of time until he blows up Canary Wharf.

This is slightly odd, given that the Russians are a vicious bunch of authoritarians whose conduct in Chechnya borders on genocide, that the only moral grounds for non-intervention in Chechnya are consquentialist (starting a nuclear war with the Russians would be even worse than what’s going on now), and that we should therefore give the guy a medal rather than lock him in jail.

But hey, I’m sure he’s guilty really. Let’s just sit back and relax while our leaders protect us from the Terrible Islamonazis Who Would, If They Could, Destroy Every One Of Us (why can I never type that without breaking into laughter? Oh, because it’s fucking ludicrous…)

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Harsh discipline required

The fact that prostitutes advertise in phone boxes is a good thing for all concerned. Nobody is harmed by the adverts [1], while prostitutes can now legally work from their own rooms rather than on the streets, reducing the scope for abusive pimpery. Likewise, the streets are left less full of tarts and punters at night, and of condoms during the day.

Westminster Council, being silly, don’t understand this. Instead, they make phone box operator BT spend quarter of a million pounds a year removing hooker cards; and also ask BT to disconnect any of its customers whose phone numbers are advertised on the cards. BT, disgracefully, complies with the request.

Fortunately, the UK’s competitive telecoms market allows people to avoid losing out to this sharp practice. BT’s share of the hooker market has fallen to 10% since the policy came in, while landline rival Telewest has gained a 28% share. Mobiles are also popular, accounting for around half the numbers on the cards.

Westminister Council, who I may have already described as silly, don’t like this state of affairs – but when they tried to get the other phone companies to agree, they were told to get lost (it’s good to see private enterprise standing up to sad bureaucrats with no real power…)

This clearly wounded the council’s pride, leading it to print 20,000 of its own cards containing the personal details of the top UK executives at the relevant companies. The plan appears to be to stir up the local busybodies and/or Taxi Driver-style vigilante nutcases into complaining to and/or assassinating the businessmen responsible for this terrible outrage.

So to recap: Westminister Council not only wants to compel private businesses to obey its whims despite having no legal grounds to do so, it is also willing to spend taxpayers’ money on personal campaigns against individuals who refuse.

Hopefully it won’t work; still, if you live in Westminster and aren’t a raving lunatic, it’s fairly clear you should vote for anyone other than the ruling Tories next time.

[1] Except under the lunatic conception of ‘harm’ by which French Connection adverts are harmful. Anyone who believes that this is a relevant criteron can safely be ignored.

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Ikea death crush

Three people have been killed in Saudi Arabia after a stampede at Ikea. This shouldn’t be funny, but somehow is.

This may because I can’t get rid of the mental image of assorted crazed mullahs denouncing self-assembly pine furniture as a tool of Satan, and perhaps claiming that Allah righteously strikes down apostates who buy furniture fashioned from the very tree that the Crusaders use to honour their false god…

In fairness, they would be correct: self-assembly pine furniture is very, very clearly a tool of Satan.

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But we’re not fucking AT war

It saddens me to read comments from reasonable, sensible people* saying “we know that Bush is terrible according to any measure, and we’d much rather have a president who wasn’t in league with the religious nutjobs, but we’re fighting for survival so we need to support him”.

If there were a WWII-style war of survival on, then this would be an unfortunate but necessary piece of logic. But under no sane criteria are we at, close to, or even in a position where we need to contemplate such a war. To put it simply, if you are an American, the next president’s abortion policy will have a greater impact on your life than his war policy.

Let’s not fall for George Bush’s self-aggrandising deceptions. The relevant part of the ‘war on terror’ is a policing operation to stop a few thousand terrorists from killing a few thousand more westerners – a worthwhile goal, but hardly the only (or even the key) thing worth worrying about.

Liberal democracy is under little or no threat – and if you want to protect it, it’s far more important to worry about religious fundamentalists gaining political power (in the USA, India, Europe or Iraq) than to worry about them blowing shit up.

* For some reason, anchor hyperlinks on blogs never seem to work for me. If the same is true for you, I mean Craig Bryant’s comment at 10:44pm.

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And not a moment too soon

The Pleasure Boat Captains For Truth claim that as his former buddies in action, they’d like to correct popular misconceptions about George W Bush’s past record.

I assume that this will attract enormous amounts of publicity, and that even when it transpires that none of them ever met George Bush and that all their claims are blatant lies, the media will continue to give them enormous publicity. I mean, we all know that TV and the papers are biased to the left…

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In defence of Jimmy Carter

Unlike most politicians, Jimmy Carter wasn’t a lying, cheating, gung-ho arrogant arsehole. Rather, he was an honourable man who ran America well for four years, restored legitimacy to a horribly tainted political system – and was defeated by an external disaster coupled with a dirty, unscrupulous Republican campaign.

During his time in power, he cut the deficit, created eight million jobs, secured the national energy supply to avoid another 1973-style oil crisis. In foreign policy, he ended the state of war between Egypt and Israel, established full diplomatic relations with China, and signed the first serious arms limitation treaty with the Russians. All these highly positive aspects of his foreign policy were followed by the Reagan government (which generally gets the praise for them), although that administration did scrap his human-rights-based stance of not supporting murderous bastards in Latin America.

It’s true that Mr Carter didn’t deal very well with the emergence of militant Islam. It’s also true that he did (at worst) no worse than the five presidents who followed him, right up until September 11. It’s also undoubtedly true that the Iranians conspired to fuck Mr Carter over personally by their stage-management of the hostage crisis. It’s not yet clear whether the Iranians were in league with the Republican campaign team during summer-autumn 1980 (google ‘October surprise’) – although the contact between these two groups later on in Mr Reagan’s presidency suggests that it wouldn’t be absurd to believe they were.

Next time you see a lazy right-wing idiot who uses ‘Jimmy Carter’ as a shorthand for ‘president who failed because he wasn’t a tough, shootin’ and huntin’ good ole boy’, you should make these points. Then punch them in the head.

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Quick and dirty

The judge said the term “joyriding” was totally inappropriate in this case. A more appropriate term was “playing Russian roulette with the lives of the innocent” (from the BBC)

I’m not convinced the judge is right: his phrase sounds infinitely cooler than ‘joyriding’. Maybe something like ‘mindlessly topping some poor fucker in a doomed attempt to pretend you’re some kind of exciting person and not a useless chav waste of space’ would be better.

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The Economist/YouGov polls are the most detailed and interesting polls I’ve seen covering the US presidential race (it will be interesting to see whether YouGov’s strong prediction record in the UK holds true Stateside). The latest one (PDF) shows John Kerry leading George Bush 47% to 44%, despite the Swift Boar Liars’ best efforts – but it’s down from a seven point lead last week.

Somewhat strangely, Mr Kerry’s rating has only fallen by one point, while Mr Bush has gained three points. I can’t think of anything worthwhile he’s done in the last week to warrant this; then again, I can’t think of anything worthwhile he’s done in the last 50 years, so perhaps a reason isn’t necessary.

Amusing minor detail: 1% of people who say they’re Republicans say they’ll vote for Ralph Nader; less than 0.5% of people who say they’re Democrats will do the same. Hopefully the Republican activists who are lobbying to get Mr Nader on the ballot in swing states will be royally hoist by their own petards…

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