Peace and goodwill to all men. Except them. And them. Oh, and definitely not them.

We’re livin’ in a mean time, in an aggressive time,
a painful time. A time where cynicism rots the vine,
in a time where violence blocks the summer shine

Michael Franti & SpearheadRock the Nation

These are conservative times. Western society is mean-spirited, small-minded, fearful, and selfish. As if we needed any more examples of this, here is an absolute classic: Edinburgh Council has banned parents from filming, or taking pictures of their children’s nativity play performances, in case the images fall into the hands of paedophiles. (The Guardian, BBC, Scotland on Sunday)

It’s not quite a complete ban. The rule is that the school or nursery must have written consent from each parent whose child is in the performance before anyone can use a camera. School staff are allowed to take pictures regardless, but they must ensure that any child whose parents have not explicitly granted permission is edited out.

This is one of the most blatant, cynical Cover-Your-Ass manoeuvres I have ever seen. It will not protect children, because a potential paedophile can still get into the audience to watch the performance. Or they could buy the school’s tape of the performance. Or they could even be a parent themselves, who is more than happy to provide the school with the appropriate consent form.

The measure is nonsensical on so many levels that it truly beggars belief. The only purpose it can serve is to protect Edinburgh Council from legal liability. If they sufficiently restrict the rights of the majority, then maybe they won’t have to deal with the transgressions of a minority.

It doesn’t work like that. The minority will transgress, and this measure does nothing to deal with what happens then.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who recognizes this. Edinburgh Council sneaked the guidelines under everyone’s radar two months ago. The newspapers have only just now got hold of them, and they’re going mental.

In other happy news, the US has now endorsed assassination as valid foreign policy, so long as the targets are classified as “combatants of war”. So the US is responding to attacks by suicide bombers with state-sanctioned assassinations. Hang on a moment. That sounds really familiar. Where have I seen that before…? Oh yes–Israel!

It’s good to see that the Bush administration has learned from one of the countries at the heart of the explosive tension that exists in the world today. In the last few years Israel has quite conclusively shown that you don’t need international approval, or weapons inspectors, or peace processes. Because attacking terrorism by killing your opponent’s leaders doesn’t create martyrs. It doesn’t lead to a vicious spiral of increasingly bloody retribution, either. So long as you have righteous indignation on your side, it’ll all work out just fine.