Politics: August 2006 Archives

In the first extensive study of the causal/correlative relationship between the use of pornography and sexual offenses, researcher Anthony D'Amato (of the faculty of law at Northwestern University) has concluded that rape statistics have declined 85% while availability of pornography rose significantly throughout the USA over the preceding 25 years. The Reagan-era Meese commission failed to derive a causal link proving that pornography caused sexual offenses; this appears to be a study proving the exact opposite — that availability of pornography reduces the incidence of violent sexual assaults. (Possible explanations are considered; follow the link for details.)

So it is quite interesting to see that the British government has decided to respond to this study by cracking down on pornography in a manner likely to backfire quite spectacularly (as well as infringing seriously on the right to freedom of speech). More details at the Prattle (thanks to Feorag) via the link above. (Home Office consultation process report here; more details on the origin of a stupid moral panic scare campaign here. (It appears the conviction of the man accused of murder that provided the impetus for the campaign has been referred back to the Court of Appeal.)

This government has created an average of one new criminal offense for every day it has spent in power — and it's been in power for nearly a decade. I am getting more than a little sick of these control freaks ...

Caution: author about to express political opinion! (Flee for the hills, if you don't approve of that sort of un-authorly behaviour.)

Dr Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary (new touchy-feely cabinet ministerial post) has just called for the closure of Islamic schools that promote isolationism or extremism.

She said the government had to "stamp out" Muslim schools which were trying to change British society to fit Islamic values.

"They should be shut down," she said. "Different institutions are open to abuse and where we find abuse we have got to stamp it out and prevent that happening."

Yes, indeed, she's quite right.

And while she's on the subject, perhaps she'd like to enhance her credibility by doing something about the overwhelmingly Christian fundamentalist faith schools that have been springing up like toadstools under the Blair government (42% of the City Academies trumpeted by Kelly and Blair are avowedly Christian Fundamentalist institutions which in some cases teach creationist nonsense in biology classes) and that two thirds of the UK's population are opposed to?

Certainly one might have fewer grounds for accusing Ruth Kelly of partiality if she applied her criticism of extremism across the board. But given her own religious affiliation (and Tony Blair's notorious piety) that's not terribly likely ...

Authorial opinion: There's a big difference between the new fundamentalist brainwashing academies and the old-school going-through-the-motions religious curriculum that was standard (and slept through) in all English schools back when I was subjected to it. The atmosphere of an avowedly religious institution is inimical to the development of cross-cultural tolerance; teaching kids in an environment in which One True Faith is exalted and all deviation is sneered at as Error is a sure-fire way to inculcate intolerance and hostility.

We need to get religion out of education in the UK and adopt the French model of strict separation right now, before we find ourselves drowning in brainwashed extremists of whichever stripe. The only way to do it is to do it even-handedly — simply banning Islamic schools at this point would inflame the extremist sentiments Ruth Kelly is so keen to stamp out — so a complete ban on all religion in schools is at this point the route of least resistance.

And let's face it, every cloud has a silver lining: the extra teaching time freed up by ditching dogma could be usefully used to improve the dismal standards of mathematics and grammar in school leavers.

Ah. So the details of last week's horrendous "worse than 9/11" conspiracy are now coming out piecemeal.

It appears that none of the conspirators had assembled any bombs or bought plane tickets. Several of them didn't even have passports, making it rather unlikely that they'd be able to smuggle an imaginary bomb onto an imaginary flight.

And they'd been under surveillance for up to a year before the sudden arrests, prompted by the confession of one man who "broke under interrogation" in Pakistan, a country notorious for torturing confessions out of prisoners.

(This rubbish is used as the basis for mass arrests and a huge security clampdown that results in close to 30% of all commercial flights in/out of British airports being cancelled for a week.)

Meanwhile, our glorious Home Secretary, John Reid, is saying "people don't get it" and that he's going to introduce a new anti-terrorism bill into parliament in the next session.

I'm afraid some of us do "get it". And we're not impressed.

Anyone got a photograph of Emmanuel Goldstein for me to link to?

"Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts."

For full details, see this paper ("A False Sense of Insecurity (PDF)", John Mueller, Ohio State University.)

This is nothing new. Here in the UK we've lived through 30 years of terrorist insurgency in Northern Ireland; it only ended recently, and it claimed 3000 lives — a per-capita death rate for the UK roughly five to six times higher than 9/11 (for the UK as a whole — it's much higher if you consider only Northern Ireland). Guess what? More people died in car accidents in NI during the Troubles than in the Troubles themselves.

It used to be said that patriotism was the first resort of the scoundrel. Now terror-mongering is giving it a close run for its money. When someone tries to scare you, the first question you should ask is "who benefits?" Al Qaida and their friends carry out terrorist actsin order to terrorise you, with a specific political agenda in mind. Why are the US and UK governments trying to do the terrorists jobs for them? And what is their fear-facilitated agenda?



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This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from August 2006.

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