Friday, May 10, 2002

There's been a tendency in blogs recently to refer to Saudi Arabia by other names. Among others, I've seen "the part of Arabia currently controlled by the House of Saud". Accurate and complete, but too long winded. I nominate "The Wahabbist Entity."

Thursday, May 09, 2002

I've seen a few posts asking how Pim Fortuyn's killer got hold of a gun, given that gun control in Holland is pretty stringent. Bit of a red herring really - he could always have used an illegally-held weapon, but even if the gun was legally owned, then so what? 'Strict gun control' in the European sense does not mean 'lack of access to legal firearms', except in the UK. There is a shooting sports culture in Holland - my older brother, who has lived in Amsterdam for many years, is a keen pistol shooter (anyone less likely to be a pistol enthusiast would be hard to imagine.) It is certainly hard to legally obtain a pistol in Holland. It's not impossible. I just hope one of the outcomes of all this is not a post-Dunblane style crackdown on legal firearms ownership.


Up late enough to catch Lileks' latest bleat and it's a doozy as usual. He lists the countries pro- and con- the disgusting anti-Israel resolution that was being discussed while a Hamas terrorist murdered 15 people in a nightclub. The thing that struck me while reading the list was not the camps into which the names fell, but the names themselves: Guyana, Mauritius, San Marino (!), Trinidad and Tobago, Djibouti, Sudan, Latvia, Tuvalu, Qatar. I mean, who in their right mind gives one teeny tiny little stuff what the hell Djibouti thinks about anything at all? I'm a fairly well-educated person, and I would be hard pressed to find Djibouti on a map if it didn't have 'Djibouti' written on it in big red letters. I live in Costa Rica. I love the place. Do I expect people in Slovenia to listen when the Costa Rican government says something? Of course not. It's 4 million or so people with a stable and humane democracy and a fairly high standard of living. But it's still only Costa Rica for God's sake. We don't even have an army here. This is the fundamental fallacy of the UN: the idea that if all the nations of the planet get round a table and have a big pow-wow, everything will be hunky-dory. Tuvalu? I've lived in bigger apartments than Tuvalu. I cannot conceive of any situation whatsoever in which the opinion of the UN representative of Tuvalu could be considered to be even marginally important. The whole place could slip beneath the waves tomorrow and the rest of the world would say, "Where? Oh yes. Ho hum. Shame. What about that Ozzy Osbourne, eh?" And that is how it should be. At least Israel has the gumption to stand up and in so many words tell the representative from some insignificant little pissant country like Burma (I refuse to call it 'Myanmar', anymore than I call Holland 'De Koninkrijk der Nederlanden') that he's talking nonsense.


Pim Fortuyn's murder makes me want to go out and buy an extremely expensive fur coat, preferably from something endangered. Two problems: 1) I don't have any money 2) I live 10 degrees north of the Equator. I shall eat a very big piece of veal next time I have a chance instead.


CAIR REDUX. Apparently those brave folks at the San Fransisco Chronicle took down their poll about Ward Connelly's Racial Privacy Initiative when it swung too heavily in the direction they didn't want. Are these people stupid? Don't they realise that one link from a well-trafficked site can boost their hit rate by a factor of a thousand or even ten thousand? Web polls are worthless anyway (and everyone knows it) so what's the harm in leaving it up?


Instapundit reckons this last suicide bombing is the end of the road for Arafat. I wish I felt the same. Arafat has got away with it too many times in the past for me to believe that this time is going to be any different. That he has not been liquidated by the Israelis is a big miscalculation I think. As I have been heard to say on the subject of martyrs: "the best thing about them is they're all dead." Can anyone remember the names of the militants killed by Israel six months down the line? If Arafat was executed tomorrow, no one would remember his name ten years from now.

Of course, that won't happen. The Israelis are too civilised for that. But what are they going to do? I'm really leaning towards the idea that they will simply expel the Palestinians into Jordan and build a damn big wall around Israel. I don't know if that would work either. I just know that Israel can only be pushed so far.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

In a little thread we've been batting back and forth, i330's Josh Treviño remarks that I ascribe too much rationality to the Iraqi polity when it comes to their stance on the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Maybe. My point was not so much that a stated and believable posture of massive countervalue retaliation against Iraq, in the event of that country's use of WMDs against the US or its allies, would necessarily deter such an attack, simply that only such a posture can have a deterrent effect. In any case, were such an attack to take place, the US would be extremely foolish not to respond massively. Imagine the effect backing down in this situation would have on the next potential aggressor. If Iraq launched, say, a chemical weapons attack on Allied forces and was not then punished ruthlessly, what possible future deterrent capability would the US then have? Past a certain point, deterrence ceases to be about mere capability; believability is king. The USSR believed us when we said we would cause Armageddon if they attacked us. I went to school three miles away from an airbase that almost certainly had many megatons targeted on it. Possibly the only reason I am alive today is that the Soviet Union knew if they killed me, a whole lot of Russians were going to be vaporised pretty soon after. The worst thing the US could do is allow its bluff to be called.


So Stephen Byers has finally been shown, once and for all, to be the lying little creep everyone thought he was. He has now misled the Commons on two separate occasions. Once is a resigning matter. How on earth can Blair continue to support this lame dog of a Secretary? He by now must have forfeited any respect he might have had from his civil servants. He clearly is of very limited intellectual gifts and is totally out of his depth in a Ministry of State. If he'd been given a nice easy sinecure like Under Minister of Public Toilets then he'd probably have been fine. One of Blair's manifold faults is backing his cronies even when they've lost every shred of credibility (q.v. Mandy, twice). On second thoughts, long may Byers be an excruciating fistula in Blair's bum.


If it's true that A. N. Wilson has said that Tom Paulin's remarks about his wish to see Israelis shot dead is 'free speech', then he has forfeited the last little smidgen of respect I had for him. Incitement to murder does not represent free speech. The fact that Paulin is advocating the murder of foreign nationals in a foreign newspaper is neither here nor there (that's not even a defence under UK law). Even if his remarks were not actionable under the letter of the law, the astounding pusillanimity of the Oxford authorities leaves me speechless. As a little thought experiment, try substituting any other ethnic, religious or racial group for the word 'Jew' in Paulin's rantings, and imagine how long he would remain a) employed b) unprosecuted.

And what exactly does A. N. Wilson do? Apart from writing MEGO* columns of insufferable pomposity in The Daily Telegraph, I can't say that anything he's ever done has swum into my ken. I know he's meant to be frightfully erudite and all that, but defending a yahoo like Paulin on the grounds of free speech marks him down as a cretin in my book.

* MEGO: My Eyes Glaze Over


Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online (and elsewhere) has been fulminating against the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the creation and possession of virtual child pornography (for the uninitiated, that is where images of adults are doctored to make it look like children having sex.) He says, in essence, that we have to stamp out this sort of thing because, well, basically it's nasty. There is, I suppose, an argument to be made that this sort of thing represents a coarsening of public discourse, but that is not per se a reason to criminalise it. Probably the most fundamental principle of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence is the notion of nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege; nullum crimen sine iniuria (no crime, no punishment without a previous law; no crime without injury). The praevia part is important; it rules out retrospective legislation. But more important is the nullum crimen sine iniuria part. Who, exactly, has been harmed by the creation or possession of virtual child pornography? Certainly no children. The adults in the doctored images were presumably consenting.

Is there a child protection issue here? Perhaps, if permitting paedophiles to create such imagery makes it more likely that they will abuse children. However, this must be demonstrated a priori, and not merely posited. Could it instead act as a safety valve? Who knows? I don't pretend to understand the mind of someone who would get aroused by pictures of children having sex. Certainly genuine child pornography should be outlawed and its procurers prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law. But there must be a distinction between imagery and actuality. The difference between Saving Private Ryan and Omaha Beach was that in the movie, nobody got hurt. If, in order to make a movie about the Normandy landings, you actually had to butcher several thousand actors, then that would be different. Nullum crimen sine iniuria.


The more I read about the Pim Fortuyn assassination, the angrier I get. Josh Treviño is once again 100% on the money (07 MAY 2002 #5). The hard left nexus is evil. That it should have been an 'environmental activist' (i.e. radical green eco-terrorist) that killed Fortuyn should not come as a surprise. The very fact that members of PETA can say, and mean, "a rat is a dog is a boy" is evidence of their complete lack of a moral compass. If you are that far divorced from morality, then you are willing to believe that quite literally anything is justifed to advance your cause. It is simple luck that no one has been killed by Earth First! and the ELF in the States. They have, of course, caused millions of dollars worth of damage.

The difference between people like Pim Fortuyn's murderer and Greenpeace activists is just a matter of degree. Once you no longer fear the moral sanction that illegality provides, then actions like burning down a $12 million ski complex or trampling a GM crop trial are just points on a continuum. The radical red-green axis is so convinced of its righteousness that it is willing to commit outrages. They are in no wise different to the murderers of the Red Brigades or Baader-Meinhof, or the Islamofascists. They should be combatted in the same way. The first thing to do would be to make sure that if and when they are brought to trial the sentences are punitive and exemplary. Something like burning down a medical research centre should get life without parole. Destroying a GM crop trial, ten years, say. Beating a director of a legal business involved in developing life-saving treatments (e.g. Huntingdon Life Sciences), 25 years. Killing someone who advocates re-legalising fur farming - the needle. Of course that was in Holland so the murderer will be out in ten years (only doctors get to give people lethal injections there).


Wow. Back at last. The last week or so has been a pig. First off I came down with something very nasty (but short-lived, thankfully). Then a very good friend of mine died suddenly and extremely unexpectedly. Plus I actually have a real job and I can't very well blog at work, and by the time I get out of work after 9 or 10 hours at the coalface I'm bushed, and don't really fancy doing much except having a few beers with my mates in the pub. How the hell do people like Glenn Reynolds and James Lileks manage not merely to be so prolific but so good? Yeah, I know they're journalists, but they also do real paying work. Where do they get the time?

Musings from Costa Rica

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