Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thoughtcrime 2006

Get this: "Commonwealth Crown Prosecutor Richard Maidment told the jury at Lodhi's trial the accused was in the planning stages of an attack with the exact target, timing and method yet to be determined."
Penalty 20 years, 15 without parole.

He didn't actually do anything, but I suppose the sort of probabilistic calculations I have done elsewhere suggested that he might. I make it 25%, tops: I think he was just doing a kind of scoping exercise to make up his mind whether to carry out some kind of attack, and the fact that he was only considering infrastructure and military targets tells me he hadn't fully absorbed the jihadist mindset. Mind you, his excuses were pretty lame. I would have said I was doing research for a novel: "It's meant to be a kind of psychological portrait of an abortion clinic bomber. That's not a timetable, its a plot summary. All those addresses are just locations I was scouting for verisimilitude..."

David Hicks is lucky. Instead of wandering around Afghanistan with the Taliban shooting at people, he might have stayed in Australia and looked up a few prices for chemicals while being non-white.

And now for something completely different

Seachanger: Someone who leaves the rat race of suburban life for a new life by the seaside.
Treechanger: Someone who leaves the rat race of suburban life for a new life not by the seaside.
Weechanger: Someone who leaves the rat race of suburban life for a new life in a more ecologically-aware community that recycles its sewage.
Spreechanger: Someone who leaves the rat race of suburban life for a new life of Clockwork-Orange-style ultraviolence.
Sidhechanger: Someone who leaves the rat race of suburban life for a new life in the land of Faerie.
And, of course,
Fleechanger: Someone who leaves the rat race of village life for a new life somewhere the janjaweed haven't set on fire.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Brief Musical Interlude

I mentioned before with reference to the Narnia books that I, the reader, am free to interpret a work of art as if it meant whatever I wanted it to mean. Sometimes this involves painful mental gymanstics, but sometimes it is very easy to subvert the author's intent. For example, I frequently listen to Green Day's 'American Idiot' as if it referred to blue-state idiots rather than red-state idiots. This interprets the references to ominpresent media-instilled paranoia to mean liberal paranoia about sinister right-wing conspiracies rather than conservative paranoia about external threats. The 'new media' and 'information age of hysteria' can easily refer to things like the Daily Kos rather than Fox.
The only tricky part was the line 'maybe I'm the faggot America, I'm not a part of a redneck agenda', but then I realised that it *could* really mean, 'conservatism is an inclusive philosophy, not a redneck agenda'!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Paint, Dumber Than, continued

I feel more depressed about the direction the world seems to be heading now than at any time since 1994.

The United States has ended its laudable silence by taking the easy path, the popular path, the stupid path, the path entirely against its own long-term interests, by sponsoring a bad ceasefire resolution that will leave a bad ceasefire. Iran will be emboldened and empowered. This is depressing.

If I was a party political animal I would have to be glad about the downfall of Senator Joe Lieberman: clearly the Democrats are out to make themselves unelectable by pandering to their brain-dead extremist fanbase. But I don’t think it is good for democracy if the opposition is clueless and unelectable. Oppositions should be about coming up with alternative solutions for the problems facing a country, not reflexively saying ’white’ when the government says ‘black’ and ‘right’ when the government says ‘wrong’. So the pre-selection- or whatever the American word for it is- of Warbucks- or whatever his name is- in Connecticut is depressing.

I feel the lack of opposition keenly at the moment because of the cretinous reaction of governments in the big and busy parts of the anglosphere to the latest possible terrotist catastrophe. If these stupid security measures are worth doing now, they were worth doing in 1995, when a previous bunch of losers tried the same sort of games with liquid explosives in the Phillipines. But they weren’t worthwhile then, and they aren’t now. The nanny states just need to be seen that they are doing something, and it doesn’t matter if the ‘something’ shows contempt for ordinary people. What is depressing is the way we have put ip with it. All the articles I’ve read about travellers who have been done over by the UK and US governments mention that they are ‘not angry.’ Why the hell not? I’ll say that again. Why the hell not? Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t everyone implicated in trying to blow themselves up on public transport in the US or UK this century been: (a) Male (b) Between 19 and 45ish (c) Not obviously non-Muslim (I mean, while not announcing their convictions, none have tried to avoid suspicion by wearing a yarmulke or an ‘I go bananas for Jesus’ t-shirt)? (d) Also, these terrorists or would-be have all been travelling alone or with a group of people meeting requirements (a), (b), and (c). I frequently meet these requirements when I travel. I don’t mind if you give me a hard time. Search me! Take my bottled water so I get deep vein thrombosis and sue the airline. Let those octogenarian nuns keep their hip flasks.
I saw in the paper yesterday a picture of some mindless government goon in Denver consficating baby food. From a baby. I can’t imagine anything more insulting. ‘We used to have a presumption of innocence in this country, and hey, maybe you don’t look like the sort of people who would blow up your baby with liquid explosive, but who knows? Anyway, nowadays we’re into disproportionate collective punishment. So sucked in’
For the love of God, leave the baby alone...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Further Occasions for Pedantry

Long ago, before Lexifab was Lexifab, the Student Union used to show interesting movies on occasional weeknights in the refectory, and before these movies they would sometimes show dull but worthy documentaries about one thing or another. I remember one of these dull but worthy documentaries was about the oppression of homosexuals, and that it featured at some dull but worthy woman in sensible shoes explaining her worldview.
The future Lexifabricographer turned to me and said, ‘Did she just say that heterosexuality isn’t normal?’
I agreed that yes, that was what she had said.
‘Good,’ said Lexifab. ‘That means I can ignore everything she says.’

This guiding principle has stayed with me ever since.
There are lots of people out there with opinions, and it is too much trouble to try to refute them all. To simplify our task, we can keep an eye out for these occasional giveaway statements that reveal they are completely unhinged. Then we can confidently ignore everything they say. Conversely, as a favour to those who disagree with me, I try to salt my own otherwise irrefutable arguments with ludicrous statements so they can take the option of ignoring everything I say.

Actually, there are two kinds of statements that allow us to ignore everything else the other person says on that topic. The first sort is the more fatal, and indicates that the person making the statement has no idea how to think. An example of this sort of statement might be, “Evolution is a heinous plot of the Godless liberal conspiracy.” If someone says that, there is no point arguing with them about anything. You cannot refute them with evidence- unless they are very young or illiterate and merely parroting their elders. They already have evidence and to spare. They are just no more able to think than a bar of soap can think.

The second sort is what I really want to talk about, because it is curable. Every so often- painfully, painfully often- someone will make a statement on a topic of current interest that they would not make if they had the slightest clue, unless they are deliberately trying to spin the argument by concealing facts. This causes a Pavlovian response in me to jump up and correct them. Of course I can’t actually do this, because they are usually making this statement on the radio, or in the newspaper, but the ‘fight or flight’ response is there and keeps me giddy with adrenaline all day. I guess the things that are bothering me are all kind of trivial, but they are half-truths which people keep quoting again and again and again nowadays without including the other half of the truth which ought to be compulsory.

Irritating Statement #1: ‘Israel is some kind of European settlement in the Middle East,’ Ahmadinejad et al. If you take away the 1990s immigrants from the former Soviet Union, half the Jewish population of Israel have no ties to Europe. They or their ancestors were thrown out of bona fide Middle Eastern countries like Yemen, Iraq, and Egypt. The native language of the President of Israel is Farsi.

Irritating Statement #2: ‘The Crucifixion was the beginning of anti-semitism,’ anyone commenting on Mel Gibson’s self-immolation. Anti-semitism is part of the heritage of Mediterranean Civilisation that has come down to us from the Greeks and Romans. There were pogroms in Alexandria hundreds of years before Christ. The books of Esther and Maccabees attest to anti-semitic persecutions by Hellenic civilisation long before it was Christian. My impression is that the rise of Christianity actually took the pressure off the Jews for a while, because the Christians were even more peculiar than the Jews. The Empire was anti-semitic before it became Christian and its successor states are still anti-semitic since they have ceased to be Christian.

Irritating Statement #3: “blah blah disputed Shabaa farms blah blah blah,” every radio report about ceasefire conditions etc. Did Lebanon complain about this nigh-uninhabited strip on the border before 1967, when it was administered by Syria? Did Lebanon complain about it at any time between 1967 and 1982, when it was occupied by Israel as conquered Syrian territory? Did Lebanon complain when the United Nations drew up the maps to accompany resolution 1559? No, no, and no. Nobody had ever heard of the Shabaa Farms before Hezbollah seized on them in 2000 as a convenient excuse to continue an armed struggle with Israel. Can a territory be considered disputed if a fringe group suddenly pipes up and claims it for one country rather than another? Only if the rest of the world takes them seriously. So they shouldn’t. The rest of the world, that is.

A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished

From Radio National, Augusat 7th:

Michael Duffy: Are there any rock lyricists or song writers that you particularly admire?

Mark Steyn: Funnily, there are, there's Sting. I think he writes very good songs and I once ran into him in London, and we were having...funnily enough, just like earlier, we were talking about PG Wodehouse lyrics who he knew about and was rather partial to. I said how much I had liked some of his early hits with the Police, like 'Every Breath You Take' and things like that, I said I was thinking of making an album called Songs for Stingin' Lovers where I was going to do great big swingin' big-band arrangements of Sting songs. The colour drained from his face and I think if I'd pursued it any further he would have contacted his lawyer, but I still have that as a project in the back of my mind somewhere.