HEAVEN — Heaven has admitted that it is suffering a severe shortage of virgins following a huge increase in Muslim martyrs. A spokesperson for Heaven claimed that paradise is struggling to meet the martyrs’ demands that their acts of terror are rewarded by “the favours of 72 virgins in heaven”.
“Normally around this time of year you’ve just got a few Palestinians and the occasional Egyptian who has shot up a tourist bus,” reported Heaven’s spokesperson. “But the attacks on America have really pushed us to our limit.”
In the face of the crisis, Allah yesterday said He could not recall making the 72 virgins promise and blamed clerics on earth for beating up expectations.
“I mean 72 is a ridiculous number of virgins anyway,” said Allah. “It’s not like heaven is overflowing with virgins and we are sent less every year.”
I received the above in an email this morning. While it’s amusing, there is a serious point to be made here. Take a patriarchal society in which the wealthy few get multiple wives, in which virginity is valued far beyond reason, in which much of the populace is poor, and the males have lousy prospects (in economic terms) for getting any female, let alone a virgin, from the pool reduced by the polygyny. Combine that with the promise of not just one, but seventy-two virgins upon martyrdom, and you have a recipe in which death by the killing of innocents becomes much more attractive than life for many young men. This is the poisonous culture with which we’re dealing.
Michael Lynch of Reason Online has a little piece titled, “No Freedom, No Prosperity,” expanding on the theme that the problems of the Middle East lie not in the stars, or in the west, but in themselves.
Yet if the root causes of terrorism are open to debate, the root causes of this poverty is no mystery: That?s what countries get when they combine socialist economists with totalitarian politics.
The recent tendency, both here and in South Africa with AIDS, is to chip away at patent protection and to lowball the compensation offered. In the short run this approach plays well before a public when resources are stretched thin. But in the long term, our stock of pharmaceuticals depreciates, and it must be replenished. It takes over a $250 million to bring a new drug to market today, and the revenues derived from a successful drug must cover not only its cost of production, but the costs of experimenting with promising products that never make it to market at all. We rightly do nothing to socialize the costs of pharmaceutical research that leads nowhere. Why then take away the fruits of a high side?
Such suspension of law and rights might almost be justifiable, and of less concern, if we were formally at war, but the government continues to refuse to make such a declaration, rendering the precedent all the more dangerous.
South America ? The administration is collecting evidence of al Qaeda operatives involved in cocaine trafficking in Paraguay and Colombia. Islamic fundamentalist cells are operating in a tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Evidence has been found of al Qaeda members in this no man’s land, a senior administration official says.
This reraises the issue that I brought up last week–what would be the impact on domestic cocaine consumption (and concomitantly, Andean drug warlords’ revenues) if the rumor were to spread that nose candy supplies have been laced with anthrax?
Today, however, we may be facing just such a threat, and one that is largely without historical parallel.
To respond, we as a nation will have to confront some hard choices. The enormity of the risk to civilian lives on American soil is unprecedented, yet despite this the Bush administration has thus far shown remarkable restraint. But as the president weighs what additional measures will be needed, both the administration and civil libertarians would do well to recall that our history demonstrates that war-time restrictions on civil liberties have neither been irrevocable nor have they curtailed our fundamental freedoms in times of peace. Indeed, our democracy can, and has, outlived temporary restrictions and continued to thrive.
And if, as we get thicker into this grim conflict, the administration deems it necessary to enact more restrictive steps, we need not fear. When our nation is again secure, so too will be our principles.
I hope that he’s right, but one of my concerns is the ill-defined nature of the enterprise on which we seem to have embarked. We do not have a formal declaration of war, nor do we know, ultimately, with whom we are fighting, and I fear that this poorly-defined beginning will make it more difficult to define an end, and that those who benefit from the usurpation of our liberties may find it convenient to continue the crisis. I welcome the sunset provisions in the legislation that has been passed, where they exist, but would like to see them broadened.
Of course, I think that we need a Constitutional amendment stipulating that all federal legislation have sunset provisions…