Monday 19 October 2009

Form over content.

Been saying this for years. This is the root of the problem with political correctness:

If you say, "Chairman Mao? Wasn't he the wacko who offed 70 million Chinks?", you'll be hounded from public life for saying the word "Chinks". But, if you commend the murderer of those 70 million as a role model in almost any schoolroom in the country from kindergarten to the Ivy League, it's so entirely routine that only a crazy like Glenn Beck would be boorish enough to point it out.


I think I like John Mayer now.

Don't really know a damn thing about him, but you've got to love his answer to this:

What do you think about health care? Would you take the public option?

Have you ever heard me play guitar? I'm really fucking good. You know what I'm bad at? Answering questions about public health care.


Out of practice.

Should have blogged about this sooner, but I was too busy trying to catch up on all the damn sleep it lost me. I was caught up in this crap:

A SECURITY alert in Newry has caused serious traffic disruption.
Army technical officers worked throughout Wednesday examining a vehicle parked near the city's courthouse.

The alert was raised late on Tuesday evening.

Yeah, the alert was raised late on Tuesday evening and my work was within the cordoned-off zone, so we had to leave as soon as the police realised we were in the building. Not sure why, as they weren't evacuating any of the residential buildings in the area. No public transport at that time of night — a bit after midnight — and our cars were parked inside the cordon too, so we weren't allowed near them. Needless to say, the police do nothing to help you when you're caught up in a situation like that. Break a few shop windows and they'll put you in a nice warm cell for the night and provide you with food, but have the temerity to be a law-abiding citizen and you can go and fuck yourself as far as they're concerned.

Luckily, one of my colleagues was actually staying in Newry and so we didn't have to spend the entire night aimlessly wandering the freezing-cold streets and were able to sleep fitfully on sofas in a freezing-cold living room instead. I occasionally called the police to find out if the cordon had been lifted. They seemed to find these calls annoying, and, after a couple of them, told me that it would definitely be staying till nine at the earliest.

Which was odd. Bomb threats were a regular occurrence everywhere in Northern Ireland a few years ago, and they generally took a couple of hours for the security forces to clear. Yet this one was taking a bare minimum of, what, eleven hours? What the Hell?

And it ended up taking even longer. I eventually had to give up and get the bus and train home, conveniently leaving my car in bloody Newry. The cordon was still up well into Wednesday afternoon. And it wasn't even a real bomb.

The news reports aren't making this clear at all, but, talking to the police at the time and seeing what was going on, what appears to have happened is that the bomb squad didn't even come to look at the bomb until their normal working day started around nine. Not worth getting them out of bed for.

I certainly hope that that's what happened, as at least that would merely imply severe managerial stupidity. The alternative is that British Army bomb disposal experts take nearly twenty hours to make safe a fake bomb containing no explosives. I hope our guys in Iraq are managing to move a bit faster than that.

Anyway, it certainly sent a clear message to the terrorists: You can cripple a major town for an entire day with a car and a phonecall.

So we can probably expect this to become a regular thing. Great.

The bloody BBC, again.

There's that annoying habit news organisations have got into of putting quotes in headlines. It's basically lying, but if you put the lie in quotes you get to blame it on somebody else.

But the BBC have come up with a new advance on that. Here's the headline:

Anger at US mixed marriage 'ban'

A "ban", eh? Blimey. That sounds pretty bad.

Except that there then follows a report in which the word "ban" does not appear. Not once. The only place it appears is in that headline. Which rather implies that, for all that the word's in quotes, it's not a quote. Surely, if it were, the BBC would be providing the quote. I mean, this is basic journalism: when you publish a quote, you attribute it. Otherwise, you could just be writing any old crap, right?

Oh, hang on: they are. The reason the word "ban" doesn't appear anywhere in the report is that what it's describing is not in any way a ban. It's a personal decision by one person and a complaint about his decision from someone else.

A white US justice of the peace has been criticised for refusing to issue marriage licences to mixed-race couples.

Keith Bardwell, of Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, denied racism but said mixed-race children were not readily accepted by their parents' communities.

A couple he refused to marry are considering filing a complaint about him to the US Justice Department.

Oh deary me. A justice of the peace is refusing to marry this couple. That's awful. What on Earth will they do?

Ms Humphrey, who is white, said that when she phoned Mr Bardwell on 6 October to discuss getting a marriage licence signed his wife told her about his stance.

Mrs Bardwell recommended that the couple see another justice of the peace, who did agree to marry them.


That little detail's down in paragraph 12, by the way, where the BBC can be pretty bloody sure it'll be missed.

I can't even see why the BBC are reporting this story, to be honest. I mean, there's a lot of racism in the world, most of it far worse than this. The entire story boils down to "Man expresses fairly racist sentiment, couple experience slight inconvenience arranging marriage." Would the BBC bother with this story if it came out of Poland or France or Italy? I doubt it. But, ah, America... it gives them the perfect opportunity to continue their decades-long propaganda war by blatantly lying in a headline.

I absolutely guarantee that I will meet people over the next few years who will tell me earnestly that interracial marriage is actually illegal in some parts of the US.

Thursday 15 October 2009

What the hell happened to the Left?

I know this question's been asked a lot, but, really. I used to be able to disagree with them about economic policy while agreeing on many of their pet causes, such as, for instance, the right of women not to be beaten to a pulp by their husbands. How old hat is that? Turns out, in the latest rules of Victimhood Poker, mentally ill trumps female. Like, really, really trumps it. Trumps it so hard it's not going to bloody try that again, the jumped-up bitch. Seriously:

The couple had been married 15 years when [David] Dawson, the former captain of the Canadian Triathlon Team, viciously attacked his wife, seemingly out of the blue.

According to the victim, she was punched in the face several times and struck in the face with a barbell.

At one point, she lost consciousness after Dawson began choking her and, when she came to, found that her hands had been tied behind her back.

Despite repeated pleadings to stop the assault, Judith Dawson said her husband continued the violence, first putting a pillow over her face, then picking her up and carrying her to the kitchen where he once again tried to choke her to a point where, she told the court, she feared for her life.

"I begged and begged him to stop hurting me," Judith Dawson wrote in a victim-impact statement submitted prior to sentencing.

The assault ended when the victim managed to free her hands and escape to a neighbour's house.

Lovely guy, you might be thinking. However, it turns out he's even lovelier than that, because he's a victim too.

The court learned that David Dawson was suffering from mental illness at the time of the attack, diagnosed by one doctor as agitated depression and narcissistic personality disorder and by another as a "mixed personality disorder characterized by an excessive preoccupation with detail."

Poor wee lamb.

Since the assault, Dawson has taken responsibility for the assault, expressing "profound remorse, which seems sincere," according to a psychiatrist who interviewed him earlier this year.

"He appears to be committed to maintaining his current recovery," the psychiatrist further noted.

In pronouncing sentence in the matter, Judge De Walle said Dawson's continued success would be better served by imposing a lengthy order of supervision, rather than jail time.

You'd hope a judge might know what a sentence is for. Apparently not. Judge De Walle thinks that we send violent criminals to jail in order to help them, and that we therefore shouldn't do it if it looks like it might not help them. Judge De Walle knows less about criminal justice than every five-year-old in the world.

I particularly like this detail:

However, Dawson was found fit to stand trial.

In other words, whether he was fit to stand trial was up for discussion in the first place. In other words, he tried to use this convenient mental illness to avoid the prosecution entirely — and in this he failed. The psychiatrists who looked at him may have decided that, yes, he was a bit mentally ill, but they also decided that, no, not to the extent of not being responsible for his actions he wasn't. He was officially deemed to be criminally responsible.

And the judge has still let him off with a slap on the wrist.

I know what some of you may be thinking. Why am I using this to criticise the Left? Who's to say Judge De Walle is a lefty? And the answer is that a mysogynist old socially conservative judge might let a guy off lightly for beating his wife because of some misguided belief that what happens inside a marriage is never the state's business no matter what, but only a lefty would let him off because jail is "counterproductive" to the poor convict's progress at overcoming his difficulties. Those old sexist judges, who used to make some truly appalling decisions (and, really, are there any of them left? Is that still happening?), at least noticed the victim. Sure, they reckoned the beating wasn't that bad and she should put up with it, but they acknowledged her existence. To the modern "progressive" mind, she's just getting in the way at the trial. A criminal trial serves no purpose other than to rehabilitate the offender. None. The idea that a sentence might be a form of punishment is anathema to these bastards.

These days, if you or a friend of yours is violently attacked by a mysogynist bastard, you might be better avoiding the police and just going straight to Jamie Foxx:

"If it had been my daughter who was barely a teenager — my daughter is 15 — Roman Polanski would be missing... period. It wouldn't even get to the court case."

Damn straight.

You may know them by their friends.

A message for most of Hollywood:

When your actions and words provide perfect evidence for the deluded hateful racist bastards who think that the media is run by the International Jewish Conspiracy, it's a good bet that you're doing something wrong.

As an aside, I must say that, having learnt Whoopie Goldberg's views on raping and abusing teenagers, I'm never going to be able to watch The Colour Purple again.

Thursday 1 October 2009

A rational debate.

As you probably already know, Natalie Morton dropped dead within hours of being given the new HPV vaccine.

A vaccine to protect against cervical cancer was unlikely to have caused the death of the schoolgirl Natalie Morton, health officials said last night.

Preliminary results from a post-mortem examination suggest that the 14-year-old had a "serious underlying medical condition".

Understandably, the event was a bit worrying for many parents. Which has, predictably, prompted hundreds of self-congratulatory rationalists to start insulting those parents.

Gary links approvingly (for some reason) to Malcolm Coles's object lesson in how not to see the wood for the trees:

Let's be clear. The only reason parents are worried, boycotting the vaccine, and demanding suspensions of the vaccination program is because the media whipped up a storm with no evidence whatsoever.

Look, it doesn't do anyone any favours to misrepresent your opponents in a political debate. It just lowers the level of discourse across the board.

Some people are worried about the side effects of the vaccine — which is natural and normal when a girl drops dead shortly after taking it. It's all very well to say that the authorities have looked into it and discovered that she was actually killed by an unrelated underlying medical condition, but people in the UK don't need particularly impressive memories to remember being assured by respected scientists that thalidomide was safe and that BSE couldn't transfer to humans and that any mother with more than one child dead from SIDS was a murderer. That's not to say that if the authorities are wrong once they're wrong every time, but that the self-important clueless whining of scientists that "We are scientists and we do science and so everyone should trust us and anyone who disagrees with us is being irrational" is ignorant and tiresome. Government scientists have a good long history of being wrong in order to promote their pet projects, being wrong in order to support government policy, and just plain being wrong.

Furthermore, I'm sure a lot of people are asking themselves the entirely reasonable and rational questions "Would this unrelated underlying medical condition have caused the girl to drop dead that day anyway, or might she have survived for years with it, maybe got it diagnosed eventually, had it treated successfully? Did the vaccine exacerbate matters?" and "Does my daughter have this medical condition?" In fact, I notice Malcolm Coles is himself asking these questions:

If it's shown that the vaccine did trigger an underlying health issue, then public health officials and parents (like me) will be in the position of having to balance risks.

Yet he insists that it is grossly irresponsible for newspapers to publish the story that causes people to ask these reasonable questions.

Before this health scare, a lot of people made what I think is also an entirely reasonable point. We have discovered that promiscuity can be seriously bad for women's health, to the extent of killing them. We could therefore strongly advise girls not to be promiscuous. But this idea is such anathema to the libertine Baby-boomers running our country that to do so is regarded as impossible. So we'll provide a vaccine instead. It's not the vaccine that's the problem per se; it's the reasoning behind the declared importance of the vaccination program. And it's easy to see this by noticing that there was a period during which scientists and the Government were aware of the risk from the cancer but had yet to develop a vaccine, and during that period there was not a widespread program of discouraging promiscuity. They clearly don't view the vaccine as merely the better or the more effective option; they view it as the only option. Heaven forbid that parents or teachers might be encouraged to tell their daughters that sleeping around at the age of fourteen isn't a great idea.

As for this popular assertion that it's stupid to suggest that giving someone a vaccine against a fatal STD might encourage them to be more promiscuous — so stupid that only the Christian Right would believe such a thing — I observe that the advent of AIDS had a huge effect on the behaviour of gay men, and it seems highly unlikely that the invention of an HIV vaccine wouldn't have roughly the opposite effect.

And, of course, there are some crazy stupid fanatical anti-vaccine people.

But here's the thing. A lot of the people rationally and sanely worried by this news have the same contempt for the crazy anti-vaccine crowd as the rest of us. To lump them all in together is insulting, and insulting people neither reassures or persuades them. Coles even links to a good example — surely one of the few sane things ever to have appeared in The Guardian's Comment Is Free — and says "I have to ask, however, what the hell this is." It's sane, calm, reasonable common sense, Malcolm. Try not to let it give you histrionics.

Coles is under the false impression that it's the job of newspapers to print what they're damn well told and not to publish anything without rock-solid evidence. Sorry, but no. Every instance in history of journalists uncovering a true story that contradicts the official story has involved publishing stuff that they have been reliably and authoritatively told is false. The price for their being allowed to do that when they're right is that they also be allowed to do that when they're wrong. The alternative is that they do neither.

And that's not even what they've done here. What they've done is to accurately report on the true fact that a girl dropped dead after being given the vaccine, and to reasonably ask whether the two events be related. The relevant authorities and scientists have also asked that same question, which is how they've been able to answer it. Coles has yet to explain why it is that reporting the story is scaremongering but putting the entire batch of vaccine into quarantine isn't.

And then there's the kind of obvious point that there is middle ground between having the vaccine right now and never having the vaccine at all ever: my guess is that a lot of parents decided to withdraw consent for their daughters to be vaccinated while this matter was investigated and will allow their daughters to be vaccinated once they're sure it's safe. This is sensible, reasonable behaviour. It's what I'd do. The vaccination program is aimed at twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, and it is to prevent a disease caused by promiscuity. Exactly how urgent does Malcolm Coles think it is?

Don't hesitate — don't contribute to encouraging others hesitating. Not having this vaccine puts your daughter's life at risk.

Got that? Just hesitating will kill your daughter. And this is from a man complaining about others scaremongering. Will waiting a few weeks or months really be the lethal disaster he claims?

For the record, I support the vaccination program. I agree that it's bad that our rulers will push a national mass vaccination program but would never consider promoting abstinence or fidelity in order to achieve the same health results, but that, for me, is a side issue: I still support all safe vaccination programs, and have written before that this is one of those areas that Libertarians tend to get wrong. No, it's not a matter of personal choice about whether to be immunised, because vaccination works not be immunising individuals but by immunising populations. We should be aiming to drive every disease to extinction, no matter how each disease happens to be transmitted.

But the fact that I support the vaccination program doesn't mean that everyone who opposes it is a moron. And calling them morons and misrepresenting their entirely rational views simply makes you look like a condescending bully.

Oh, and anyone who supports the NHS is a Communist who wants to kill you.