Uncool analogies

Tim Blair is an idiot. You knew that already, of course. But it does take a particularly moronic worldview to equate Nazi Germany with Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

I don’t support Castro; his regime is authoritarian, and disagreeing with him might well land you in jail. However, he’s far more of a Lee Kwan Yew than an Adolf or a Mao – he took control of somewhere absolutely knackered and horrible, and brought massive improvements to its people’s standard of living.

Neither Singapore nor Cuba are places I’d choose to live – I’m quite keen on the whole ‘freedom’ thing. Still, life in either country would be reasonably tolerable, unlike life in Nazi Germany or Maoist China.

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Guess the soft liberal ponce

Which ivory-tower sandal-wearing hippy said this?

"A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the state and even of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry of all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerating processes and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if only you can find it in the heart of every person – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it."

Answer at the rather good The Law West Of Ealing Broadway blog. Run by a magistrate, who apparently doesn’t wear a wig or bang a gavel.

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Perfunctory post

Think-tank Centre for Policy Studies is a rightwing lobby group, not an impartial research organisation. Of course their latest survey finds that bludgeoning single parents with a stick is a good idea, and that we should do whatever the Yanks do.

I’m sceptical. One claim CPS makes is that we should follow the US example of making single parents live in poverty, backed up by stats about how teen pregnancy in the US has declined significantly while the UK figure has risen marginally. Now, the UK figure for under-18 pregnancies in 2002 was 41,868 , while the US figure for 2000 (most recent I can find in both cases) was 301,540. Per head of the population, this gives a US rate about 1.5 times higher than the UK rate.

Losing a stone is much easier if you weigh 15 stone to start with than if you weigh 10 stone…

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Fill in the blanks

"Microsoft have announced the availability of a new product aimed at allowing customers to combine the _____ of Microsoft Outlook with the _____ of Hotmail."

The factually incorrect and boring answers are here.

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Rubbish but not scary

David T at Harry’s Place has the right attitude towards fundamentalist Islam.

"There is nothing alien and exotic about islamism, in either its content or its style. The extremists of the islamic and christian/post-christian worlds share a common heritage; they are both self conscious revolts in the romantic tradition against modernism and liberalism.

"Well, we’ve lived through these battles in England and America. We’re surviving their aftershocks, still."

Oppose it. But don’t turn it into the bogeyman that’s going to destroy society as we know it, or you’re doing exactly the same thing as the loons who fear conspiracies of lizards/Jews/Bildebergers…

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It’s just not true

Just a quick pointer to American readers: there is no social security crisis; even the most pessimistic economists believe that the fund will be solvent for decades; and privatised, market-based schemes have massively ballsed-up whenever they’ve been tried elsewhere. More information here.

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One minor flaw

The metaphor for US foreign policy in this article very nearly works. The US is cast as a pest exterminator, performing a useful service for squeamish neighbours but attracting their revulsion as a result.

There’s a small problem with this metaphor, but it works well with a few tweaks: the pest exterminator turns up uninvited, kills your cat and dog while muttering under his breath about how much he thinks you’re all sissies, and then tells you to fuck off when you complain.

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Very tragically his time on earth is ended

The New York Times has an article on using Ecstasy and/or LSD to manage terminal patients’ experience of dying.

It’s reasonably sensible by the standards of drug reporting, suggesting that hallucinogens might indeed help people remember and enjoy past experiences while allowing them to reflect more on the nature of death. At least, that’s my reading of the article; Mark Kleiman disagrees entirely, and I’m not sure why (he’s also reproducing the full text of the article, for anyone without an NYT login).

All very interesting. However, the best thing was this quote from philosopher Simon Blackburn: "An old don in my college, he had a stroke at the end of college dinner, and died on the spot, sitting in his suspenders, in candlelight, holding a wine glass. It was the perfect end for him, just incredible, and I think it struck people as very admirable."

I’ve also always wanted to die drunk and while wearing S&M drag, which is why I put on a ball-gag and hang myself from the ceiling every time I get home from the pub.

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Free, or very cheap, speech

The claim that the US has freer speech and a freer press than the UK and the rest of Europe is a common and annoying myth.

Mark Humphrys is a useful, if slightly unfair, case study here. He bashes Reporters Sans Frontieres for unspecified left-wing bias, because their rankings don’t fit with his belief that "America has the freest, most dynamic media in the world". He doesn’t try to quibble with their rigorous methodology; that’s not relevant to the argument, because he *knows* that America is freer.

Since I don’t have RSF’s survey resources at my disposal, I assess the dynamicism and freedom of the US and UK presses by, err, reading them. On this basis, I’d find it rather hard to take seriously anyone who claimed the US press was the most "dynamic". Where are the US equivalents of the Guardian? The Indy? The Daily Mail? The Mirror? The Economist? There are none; no mainstream US organ would dare adopt an equivalent tone to any of the papers above. While the First Amendment is a great thing and the UK libel laws are appalling, a British journalist has infinitely more freedom in practice than an American journalist.

Mr Humphrys also points out that he hosts his website in America because he’s "too nervous to have this website in Europe". Scary stuff, since I’m currently in the process of moving SBBS from a US to UK host. If the site disappears, it’s not because I’ve buggered the software up in the transfer: it’s because the Thought Gestapo have thrown me into a reeducation camp.

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