Sunday, November 17, 2002

Theodore Dalrymple provides the last word in the debate over Myra Hindley's punishment. It is irrelevant whether she felt remorse. Her life sentence was a punishment, not a curative treatment. In the cases of the most awful murders remorse just can't be used as a counterweight to the seriousness of the crime. Some crimes are beyond human forgiveness.

Foxy Lady

Tim Blair points out the latest PETA stunt: Its members rushed up onto the stage at a Victoria's Secret show carrying anti-fur slogans as Gisele Bundchen walked down the catwalk. They shouted at Gisele for a while and waved their placards around in front of the bemused audience until they got hauled off. The picture almost looks as though Victoria's Secret was unveiling a new line of clothing for dowdy, hectoring activists beside its usual gear.

PETA enjoys the support of quite a few celebrities. One of their sites, furisdead.com shows the lovely Sophie-Ellis Bextor holding a "dead, skinned fox in her hand" (well I should hope it's dead if it's in that state). Says the blurb:

Singer Sophie Ellis Bextor’s dance hit 'Murder on the Dancefloor' skyrocketed to the top of the charts, and she’s been nominated for Best Dance Act at this year’s European MTV Awards. But it’s her refusal to kill animals for fur that has caring fans all over the world singing the praises of the sultry songbird.

Her refusal to kill animals? You'd think Sophie had been conscripted into a nightmarish seal-clubbing brigade but had torn up her draft card chanting "Hell no, I won't go! Skinning fills me full of woe!" or some such thing...

UPDATE: Right Thinking and Blogs of War are having great fun with the PETA photo.

Is that really Germaine?

Every now and again an opinion piece comes along that's so astonishingly, unintentionally hilarious that when you read it you just sit there, amazed. This week the Guardian brought us Germaine Greer's thoughts on the general uselessness of men. Germaine Greer is a respected writer and a common sense feminist. But here she appears to blow a fuse and fly into a screeching, hyperactive frenzy, smoke bellowing everywhere:

The truth is out. Men are much more trouble than they're worth. Sisters are doing it for themselves. Discarded males of all ages loiter in the streets, looking for trouble to get into and finding no lack of it. Male security guards shoot male football fans in Bratislava, male fans howl racist abuse and hurl chairs at each other, males train as suicide bombers, male heads of state stroll about discussing whether they could get away with another shooting war on the women and children of Iraq, and their male flunkies zoom around the world trying to talk other males into joining in. The Beltway Sniper turned out to be a man. And those "children" ejected from school for threatening to kill their teachers are actually boys. It doesn't do to say so. A kind of mad squeamishness prevents us from quantifying the nuisance value of maleness, possibly because if you actually tell men that they are damned nuisances, they are likely to behave even worse.

Um....yes, Germaine. The Beltway sniper turned out to be a man. This was a surprise because we expected the sniper to be a lemur.

There's screeds more on how men are biologically redundant and how males of other species are thoughtless, brutal ne'er-do-wells. What animals. From this Greer draws the conclusion that "We daily observe symbolic versions of this leader-fucks-all behaviour when we see Blair accompanied by his receptive female at all times, while the henchmen he is grooming for future office trot beside him spouseless. The implication is that they're all expendable, and so with each cabinet shuffle do all but a few shrewd campaigners prove to be."

I wonder if Cherie Blair read that. Is she feeling receptive to Germaine Greer right now? To Greer there's no difference between the political machinations in a democracy and the power struggle amidst a pack of gorillas. You and me baby ain't nothing but mammals. And it's not just Blair's cabinet that's made up of apes. International politics can be reduced to an expression of chest-beating too:

It is men, not women, who perceive that the number of men on the planet is vastly surplus to requirements; male-dominated human societies have always devised strategies for neutralising as many males as possible. Senior males have always seen clearly that if law and order were to prevail, the majority of men had to be controlled. The obvious way to control them was to draft them into armies under the command of senior males who had the power to kill them if they mutinied, and then to use those armies to dominate or annihilate the rest.

Here was me thinking wars arose from ideological, ethnic and territorial conflicts. How silly of me. It turns out that the generals were eliminating their rivals for the really hot chicks.

It goes without saying that we are marching towards a dark, militaristic future. Well, actually no, it doesn't go without saying at all because Germaine Greer says it:

Authoritarianism and militarism have returned; civil rights are in the process of suspension and the nurturing of the poor and needy, inadequate as it always was, is being abandoned. While women and children were playing in the glow of dawning freedom, new methods of tracking and control were being devised.

Our new chains aren't identity chips or surveillence cameras but the accoutrements of modern life: "bank accounts, credit cards, social security numbers, car registration, insurance, mortgage and debt." This is another revelation for me, because I was under the impression that these things were voluntary responsibilities. I'll be sure to let the building society know that I'm missing next month's mortgage payment to protest against the way it oppresses me. I'm sure they'll dig it.

To finish, Germaine wonders at the way men react to her statements:

Men get angry when I describe them as "freaks of nature, fragile, fantastic, bizarre", as idiots savants, "full of queer obsessions about fetishistic activities and arbitrary goals, doomed to competition and injustice not merely towards females, but towards children, animals and other men".

You think?

I wonder how angry Germaine Greer would get if I described her as "an increasingly hysterical relic of sixties feminism, a shrieking harridan fixated on simplistic theories of biological determinism, obsessed with promoting them in the haughtiest possible way in whatever pseudo-intellectual waste of paper cares to publish them".

Now I'm not normally one for name-calling, but in this case I think I should give as good as I get...

Friday, November 15, 2002

Hindley Dead

Myra Hindley has died age 60 of respiratory failure following a heart attack. I don't think there's a person alive who will mourn her passing.

If there was ever a case that called for full life term imprisonment it was the moors murders. There are no adequate words to describe how revolted the nation was. The callousness displayed by Hindley and Brady has never been forgotten.

She may have reformed. She may have become a born-again Christian. She may well have been rendered harmless. None of these things matter. Every day she spent in prison was absolutely justified. It's true that criminals of similar wickedness did not share her notoriety and received more lenient treatment, but that's an argument for tougher, not softer sentencing.

Methodist Minister Peter Timms has condemned the length of her sentence as "completely unfair". The next time he is inspired to comment on the criminal justice system I hope he will temper his views with some perspective. Hindley experienced a peaceful death. Her victims did not.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Iraq needs better writers

Iraq has more than its fair share of problems and one of them appears to be lazy writing. If Naji Sabri Ahmed's letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is the most eloquent response they can come up with then I fear for these guys.

The SC will be compelled before the public opinion and the law to activate paragraph 14 of its resolution No. 687, by applying it to the Zionist entity (Israel), and then, to all the Middle East region, to make it a region void of mass destruction weapons. The number of just people will, then, increase in the world, and Iraq's possibility to drive away the cawing of the crows of evil that daily raid its land, and kill Iraqis and destroy their property by their bombs.

Now I admit I'm guilty of writing the odd bit of purple prose myself but this sets a new standard. Isn't there some sort of common tone adopted by diplomats when they're exchanging these things? Don't they even pretend to be polite anymore? I'd still expect them to grit their teeth and use a bit of civility even if their governments feel like ripping each other to shreds.

I'm really glad they pointed out that the "Zionist entity" they're on about is Israel, because I thought they were talking about Marks & Spencer. And you'd need a hand-picked special-ops unit of cunning linguists to decipher this bit:

We have said to the members of the Security Council whom we have contacted, or who have contacted us, when they told us about the pretexts of the Americans and their threat to perpetrate aggression against our country, whether unilaterally or with participated from others, if the Council were not to allow them to have their way, that we preferred, if it ever became necessary to see America carry out its aggressions against us unilaterally, when we would have to confront it relying on Allah, instead of seeing the American government obtaining an international cover with which to camouflage its falsehood, partially or completely, bringing it closer to the truth, so that it may stab the truth with the dagger of evil and confronted the United States before when it looked as it does now, and this was one of the factors of its isolation in the human environment on the globe at large.

Have we been blockading Iraq's supply of full stops? That's one hundred and fifty-four words without one. I haven't witnessed a paucity of punctuation like this since I read European Court opinions at uni. Could this be part of their strategy? Are the Iraqis making the UN an offer it can't understand so it can play footsie with it a little bit longer? Are they baffling us to buy time?

Andrew Sullivan points out that if you received a letter like this you'd call the police. These guys need better writers. I'm sure Aaron Sorkin is available on a fee-paying basis.

Fire Fight

Well, I hope the fireman are happy. One woman died last night here, and there are reports of two other deaths on the morning news.

Of course firemen deserve better pay - just like lots of other public sector workers. But their demand for a forty percent increase is extremist posturing and obviously isn't going to be taken seriously. They know this fine well and they're prepared to engage in old-fashioned brinksmanship to get as big a settlement as they can.

Maybe I should wait until I've had my coffee before jumping into Daily Mail Authoritarian Mode but I think enough is enough. The possibility of another strike should be removed from the table. If we're talking about firing people or making arrests then so be it. This is one of these rare times when the government needs to put the foot down hard, and to hell with what the trade unions say.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Shock of the New

The reforms to the criminal justice system outlined in the Queen's speech reveal the government's hatred of the past, according to Janet Daley in the Telegraph. David Blunkett derides "outdated" and "age-old" procedures that form the basis of our law and seeks to abolish the double jeopardy rule and reveal defendants' previous convictions.

What is the main problem, he asked himself, with our increasingly delinquent society and our apparent inability to police it? Why, an adherence to tradition, of course. For New Labour, the same thing is wrong with British justice as is wrong with everything else in this country. We have a sentimental, irrational attachment to historical institutions and customs that can only be overcome by a courageous modernising government.

I hope these blatantly, destructively unjust proposals get stuck in some dusty Parliamentary committee, never again to darken our doorstep. It's one of the most infuriating characteristics of this government: judging institutions and rules by their age instead of their value. A thing's age becomes evidence for the prosecution. We've now got the legislative equivalent of a makeover show where a fashionable youngster surveys a room and smirkingly declares: "that is so nineteenth century".

There's certainly a case for cutting copious amounts of red tape and doing some serious arse-kicking at the Crown Prosecution Service. But the government has taken huge, ill-judged swipes at tradition (which I bet they'll describe as "bold" at every opportunity).

Blair says of these measures: "that has long been the case in Germany, Finland and Denmark." Oh well, that's all right then. I guess we know which countries are going to be models for Scots and English law from now on.

Blair has written screeds on the subject of respect, but he seems blind to the possibility that government programmes aren't the best way of creating it. He's right - informal networks between people and families are important. But there's not a government on earth that can cultivate them.

The Pile Of Dishes Theory of Economic Planning

If only Marx and Lenin could have seen this....

Monday, November 11, 2002

This is hardcore

Peter Cuthbertson points out the latest insanity from the European Court of Human Rights. Prisoners will be allowed hardcore pornography after mounting a challenge based on the Human Rights Act.

Makes a change from mounting each other, I suppose.

Under Article 10 of Act prisoners have the right of expression and the right to receive information. I shudder to think what tortuous legal manoeuvres were employed to get to a conclusion where pictures of sexual acts are "information". This is what human rights means now: The right to free expression, speech and a trouble-free wank. What next - legislation in favour of better bowel movements?

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