The Curmudgeon


Friday, September 30, 2005

News 2020

Foreign Secretary "bearing up" after eye assault

The Foreign Secretary narrowly escaped "lasting emotional damage" yesterday as his speech to the NuLibLab Conference was interrupted from the floor, according to sources of information with access to information.

The Foreign Secretary was in the process of clarifying the situation in the Middle East when a member of the audience blinked rapidly in what witnesses said was a blatant and ostentatious display of disbelief.

Although the disruptive element was rapidly removed under the Freedom of Speech Act, the Foreign Secretary was clearly disturbed by the incident and its implications for public attitudes to the war against horribility the world over.

The unprecedented display of eyeliddery came as the Foreign Secretary mentioned the success of the latest free elections in the Democratic Republic of Baghdad, and paid tribute to the contribution of British troops to the recent Operation Voter Incentive.

Sources close to the Foreign Secretary later said he had been "deeply hurt" by the ocular assault but was "bearing up bravely". He was able to finish his speech, but left the podium after only three minutes of the customary standing ovation.

The incident has once more opened up the question of security at political events. The Prime Minister is said to be "deeply concerned" that anyone capable of expressing scepticism should have been allowed into the conference hall.

Only two days ago, the Prime Minister made a forceful speech emphasising the right of law-abiding citizens to be protected from all harm, even if it meant imposing a nationwide six o'clock curfew and employing a possibly controversial shoot-to-kill policy against potential binge drinkers.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Suspect Behaviour

Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, who is in charge of London's anti-terrorist operation, gave an interview to the Guardian today. He was very informative. Scotland Yard is tracking "a number of potential terrorist suspects". Presumably this means that the people in question are not under suspicion, but are being tracked anyway. The not-quite-suspects "may be planning further attacks", but "you can't predict where or how or when". This is certainly useful.

The Assistant Commissioner said that none of the not-quite-suspects was linked to the atrocity of 7 July or the attempted atrocity of 21 July, but that "other terrorist cells, which may well be British, would launch attacks." Detectives are also actively pursuing "other lines of investigation", as opposed to passively pursuing the same line of investigation. This is certainly reassuring.

Along with this wealth of life-saving information, the Assistant Commissioner noted regretfully that "getting the Muslim community to trust the police was proving a long and difficult process." The Assistant Commissioner said that he "fully understood" the difficulties involved in "the repercussions of arrests and so on", but advised Muslims to weigh this against "the mass loss of life that could result from further atrocities." This is certainly helpful. No doubt there are millions of Muslims who would never have thought of the mass loss of life, had Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman not been around to remind them.

By coincidence, Assistant Commissioner Hayman's highly informative, thoroughly honest, deeply sensitive contribution to public safety took place on the same day as the family of Jean Charles de Menezes spoke of their distress on viewing CCTV footage of the protectively detrimented non-Briton's last moments.

The CCTV footage, which police originally claimed did not exist, apparently showed de Menezes not leaping any barriers as police claimed he did, not running from police as police claimed he did, and not being dressed, as police claimed he was dressed, in a manner commensurate with a potentially possible suspect of a potential terrorist possibility. In a vindictive attempt to distract public attention from Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman's useful hints for survival, the family have accused police of a "cover-up". Well, really.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

News 2020

Punctilious Albion

The Home Secretary has vowed to "eliminate nastiness in all its forms from society" by the time of the next voting season "whenever it may occur."

His words mark a significant escalation in the war on nastiness which was begun during the premiership of Lord Blair of Belmarsh.

During the historic third term of the historically term-thirded Blair administration, the then NewNuLab government intervened to depoveratise Africa's under-fives and promoted fiscally nontraumatic solutions to climate change before being reminded by the then US President George W Bush that the will of God must be respected.

The Home Secretary today appealed for a return to the "kinder, gentler England" of the 1950s, when despite the austerity budgets of Attlee's NHS government, "people could leave their front doors unlocked and everyone helped everyone else."

"I was no older at that time than many children are these days," the Home Secretary said, "and I distinctly recall never once seeing in the newspapers any of the shocking stories of child abuse and excessive asylum seekers which at present are practically a daily occurrence every day of the week."

He added that during the next Parliament he would introduce new legislation to "aggressively promote" respectful behaviour and opportunify national humiliation of those who failed to behave appropriately.

Among other measures, Muslims will be required to remove their headgear in the presence of ladies, and when on the street "will be expected to doff their fez or turban to indicate their respect for British values and the British people".

The measure would "lay to rest once and for all any suspicion that this Government discriminates against the headgear of minorities," the Home Secretary said.

Human rights groups have been protesting for several years that the laws against hooded behaviour are "too draconian" and should be flexibilitised.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Arrogance,n. Superiority without shame.

Blopticle,n. An unavoidable but nonetheless unforgivable social embarrassment.
She never could think what to do about Matilda; whenever there were guests she simply stood there in the middle of the room and acted the blopticle all evening.
Addipose Wurple

Debate,n. Two or more monologues in alternating current.

Foetus,n. A microcosm of the population explosion: mindlessly expanding, endlessly consuming, wriggling blindly towards the blood and squalls.

Journalism,n. The first draft of history. Since history is written by the winners, the usual practice is to draft it in the interests of the powerful, thus ensuring for posterity the continued freedom of the Press.

Massacre,n. Police action carried out by the other side. Collateral damage without democratic sanction. Multiple homicide in the name of any abstraction which lacks official approval.

Post-coital,adj. The point in a sexual relationship at which borders are put under guard and tariffs forcibly imposed.
A charming and sensitive spider
Had long grieved that love was denied her.
One day to her lair
Came a male sweet and fair;
So she ate him, and that satisfied her.
Rev. Wibley Beamish

Respect,n. Servility towards your admirable self.

Tradition,n. A robust species of wall, built over several generations, against which the old regularly beat the heads of the young.

Versatile,adj.(Management Relations) Equipped with more than one subordinate.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Conference 2020

The NuLibLab Coalition conference kicked off today with a barnstorming speech from the Prime Minister's second most expensive speech-writer which swept the ball firmly into the party's court.

"We will provide a third way between the NuConLibs at home and the Homeland Constitution in America," Mr Brunton Grundon told the conference amid a cascade of pale pink balloons. "We will not just inhabit the centre ground, but dominate it."

"A great British society. This we stand for," Mr Grundon said. "A home-owning, share-owning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy, not just for some but for all. And if that isn't greatness and Britishness, I don't know what is".

During the next parliament, he said, the Government would renew its humble request for voluntary curbs on chief executives' pay, saying that "those at the top [should show] the same responsibility they ask of others", as has been the Prime Minister's habit from birth.

He said the Government wanted to see ""Britain no longer defined and diminished by the divisive ideology of them and us, of something for nothing, that denied Britain a shared national purpose."

To this end, Mr Grundon promised tough new restrictions on gipsies, travellers, asylum seekers, smokers, drinkers, preachers of hate, practitioners of non-Britishness, hooded teenagers and welfare cheats.

Mr Grundon said that the Government would continue its long record of straight talking and fiscal responsibility and would continue to "spend what it takes" to prevent the British people being much less secure than they might have been had Britain and her allies pursued a different foreign policy.

Of the opposition, he said that they would never have the courage to match the Government's spending on security, and that their "sums and whole philosophy never add up."

He concluded: "Our mission renewed, our values for all, our country united, our community moral," and added that representatives of the Minister of Freedom would be touring every region of the country to ensure that this programme was properly implemented.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

News 2020

Britain to withdraw troops from Middle East

The Prime Minister has announced that British troops will be withdrawn from the Middle East "when the world has been made safe for every hard-working family to have a share".

Although he refused to be "tied down to nit-picking pedanticalities" such as specific designated points in the earth's "orbit", the Prime Minister did say that with proper co-operation from the natives and public respect for law and order at home, world salvation could be achieved in "in the fullness of time".

"Britain will never cut and run while there are irons in the fire," he added. "Too many bridges have been burned for us to pour cold water on the democratic aspirations in which so much blood and treasure has been responsibly invested."

The leader of the opposition, Boris Johnson, welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement but condemned the Prime Minister's announcement.

"Of course it's good news for those suffering from the shortage of police and strike-breakers that the soldiers are coming home," Mr Johnson said. "But until this country has done its whole duty, it is madness and degeneracy to suggest that the region should be deprived of so much as a single international democratisation operative."

Mr Johnson's party, the NuConLib Alliance, has been an energetic opponent of the British military presence in the Middle East, although energetically supporting the British military presence in the Middle East.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

News 2020

Latest nonglamorisability list published

The Ministry of Perspective has published its quarterly revisions of the nonglamorisability league tables, setting out the degree to which various aggressive, violent, and terroristic acts are legally nonglamorisable.

There are few surprises in the new league table. 14 previously aggressive acts have been reclassified as violent; 29 previously violent acts have been reclassified as terroristic and 23 as aggressive; 17 previously terroristic acts have been reclassified as aggressive and 6 as violent. Additions to the new league table include 12 new aggressive acts, 31 new violent acts and 18 new terroristic acts.

The Government has not yet introduced the new classification "potentially violent" which was approved by Parliament two months ago. The new offence of incitement to potential violence, which is described as a "preventive measure", will probably come into force next year, when the Government has decided whether 12 lashes or 21 lashes constitutes an appropriate penalty.

The Government is also thought to be considering new league tables of "acts of positivity", the favourable depiction of which could be made compulsory for writers and broadcasters. Examples are thought to include toughness on crime, toughness on the causes of crime, international democratisation, rapid and efficient asylum seeker processing, the war on drugs and being British.

Separate league tables classifying fictitious acts of violence, as depicted in films and television, will be published later in the year. The Government has denied engaging in censorship, saying that films and programmes will not actually be cut, even if the makers and broadcasters are prosecuted for incitement to nastiness.

"As always, the Government's aim has been to augment clarity enhancement as an aid to helping public and media make the right choice out of available choices in their utilisation of free speech," said Ministry spokesperson Peveril Wisser.

Friday, September 23, 2005

News 2020

Foreign Secretary clarifies underground personnel status

Three more British undercover soldiers were rescued today from an Islamist militia rathole surrounded by a frenzied Muslim crowd thought to be under the influence of radical Muslim Islamists.

The undercover soldiers were arrested by Muslim militiamen on the pretext that they were carrying weapons. The soldiers had adopted traditional Arab dress in order to facilitate population non-aggressivity.

An Islamic militia spokesman told the Muslim propaganda agency Aljazeera that "armed persons in civilian dress are usually called 'spies' in wartime and 'terrorists' in peacetime."

However, the British Foreign Secretary today offered a clarification of the undercover soldiers' status. "They were certainly not spies or terrorists," he said.

The soldiers were rescued by a special uniformed squad in an armoured vehicle, which caused some damage to a wall in the building, allowing several dozen collateral abscondments.

The rescuers were shouted at by a mob, which also threw various items at their vehicle. The Ministry of Defence has said that the type of vehicle the soldiers were using rarely has more than a few centimetres of armour plate to protect its occupants against those they are democratising.

The Foreign Secretary also responded to reporters' concerns that such situations could arise more and more given the confused and violent state of the region's inhabitants.

"The Government and our allies fully appreciate the difficulty involved in living under a violent insurgency," he said. "That is why our undercover soldiers, military civilians and compassionate interrogators are working so hard to impose a credible democracy in the region."

British personnel, underground and above-ground alike, were doing a wonderful job under difficult circumstances and deserved the nation's full support, the Foreign Secretary informed reporters in conclusion.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Campaign History

An extract

Indeed, following Nigel Witherspoon's disastrous attempt, a formal complaint had been made to the local authorities, with the result that the use of elastic bands has been forbidden by city ordinance ever since.

Undeterred by such measures, the Association continued its efforts to gain international recognition, and an important step towards this goal was achieved by Lavinia McGurk of Muckle-on-the-Marsh in Buckinghamshire, who between June and November of that year wrote six hundred and fourteen thousand letters to her Member of Parliament, the Conservative Edwin Upsnoddle. The longest of these letters, which arrived at Upsnoddle's surgery on 22 October, was sixty-three pages long and resulted in his secretary being taken away in a van without any windows at the back. Finally, Upsnoddle agreed to meet with Lavinia McGurk and her colleagues, and in January he asked a question in Parliament.

Despite this encouraging development, the reputation of Lavinia McGurk's group suffered something of a setback when three of its members were found ritually disembowelled at the side of the M4 motorway. Several drivers registered concern at the sight of various intestines strewn about the place, and one or two even telephoned the emergency services under the impression that something serious had occurred. That particular stretch of the M4 had always suffered from an unfortunate reputation, owing to the notorious seventeen-year roadworks at Allsopp Gulch and the unfortunate outbreak of bubonic plague at the Little Chef barely half a mile away.

Fortunately, Lavinia McGurk's intestines were not among those found draped across the road signs or interwoven with the traffic cones at Allsopp Gulch; and so her tireless campaigning continued anew. A certain amount of unfortunate publicity became attached to the Association's besieging of Edwin Upsnoddle's pied-á-terre in Brixton, especially as several expensive windows were broken when some of the more zealous members attempted a forcible entry; but shortly after that Upsnoddle was crucified on his own front lawn and the ruffled feathers were effectively smoothed.

Meanwhile, Nigel Witherspoon had recovered from some of his lighter injuries and was trying to pay his medical bills by touring the country with a travelling fair. Witherspoon, who owing to his fragile physical condition had to stay in an airtight tank lined with feather pillows, had a special transparent container constructed so that people could view him as he underwent convalescence encased in emollient jelly. He made a considerable amount of money in this fashion, although his agent claimed that the constant travelling caused thickening of the jelly and consequent delays in the mending of his kneecaps, sinuses, and liver.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Believe,v.t. To react profitably to a convenient fiction, in compensation for any evidence which may happen to contradict it.

Cross,n. A means of inflicting protracted and unpleasant death, traditionally revered by Christians to a greater degree even than the rack, screw, wheel, gibbet and stake.

Fetishism,n. The investment of sexual desire in something which will neither cost nor squabble.
His temper was horrid and hatable;
His habits were worse than debatable.
One love had this man -
His wife, Mary Ann;
And she was both dumb and inflatable.
Rev. Wibley Beamish

Indoctrination,n. Unduly thorough persuasion towards a point of view which lacks the advantage of your approval.

Love,n. The lust that dare not speak its name. The standard pretext for emotional abuse from sexual partners, parents and Christians.

Murgid,adj. Morbid and turgid.
She considered D H Lawrence a dirty old man and Poe a murgid monomaniac.
Jolliper Gniddle

Paranoiac,adj. Convinced of the evil intentions of a qualified psychiatrist.

Reporter,n. Intermediary between the public and the official press release.

Verbose,adj. Insufficiently amenable to summary in the hundred and fifty words permitted the reviewer.

War Cabinet,n. A group of politicians entrusted, for the duration of a national emergency, with increased power; and then expected to end the emergency.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Don't Mention the War

I am in receipt of an unsigned email titled "Labour Party Conference 2005". Beneath the title is the date for said conference: 25-29 September, a period when unfortunately I shall be in this country. Presumably as an indication of the conference's atmosphere, the words are superimposed in white over a red-tinted gathering of solemn infants. At the left of the picture, an adult hand is just visible, protruding from a white, saviour-style cuff to rest beatifically on the head of one of the little beasts. I wonder who that could be.

"Speaking to a special pre-conference meeting of the Cabinet this morning," the message commences, "the Prime Minister said the Labour Conference in Brighton next week would focus on 'securing Britain's future' in a world of rapid change." In order to do this, the only possible option is to continue the "radical reforms needed to ensure public services focused on the needs and expectations of hard-working families". All Britons worthy of the name are hard-working families.

The Prime Minister mentioned a second necessary condition for true Britishness a short sermon later: "the Labour mission is to build a society where those who work hard and play by the rules are in charge of their communities and getting ahead in their lives." Those who find the rules not to their liking will perhaps be given the opportunity to hang themselves in their cells, asylum-seeker fashion. China, whose new economic power has left Tony in no doubt of the global challenge we face, could offer no less.

"Faced with the opportunities and insecurities the future brings," the Prime Minister said, the Government "must manage this change and not turn our face against it." We must not turn our face against the insecurity of climate change, nor against the opportunities for nuclear proliferation so thoughtfully provided by Tony's masters in Washington. We "must equip our people for the future in a way that is driven by Labour values, managed for the benefit of everyone, not just a few." We must manage the change, we must manage the way. Tony and his fellow advertising men already have plenty of experiencing in managing the truth and the light.

Still, it is reassuring to note that the future will be managed by the few "for the benefit of everyone" - everyone, that is, who works hard, plays by the rules, has a family, can afford a good school and is prudent enough not to fall ill, claim benefits or look at a surveillance camera wrong. As always, no Briton worthy of the name - no reader or owner of a Murdoch rant-rag, for example - has anything to fear from New Labour policy.

I shall pass discreetly over the paragraph about the "huge role" of Labour supporters in delivering the famous historic third term. The Prime Minister noted "your tireless campaigning, your deep roots in communities and the role you played in shaping our policies and agenda". I suppose the poor devils who shoved a leaflet through my letterbox were shaping an agenda after a fashion, though more often than not they merely creased it. I am certainly glad that Labour supporters have deep roots in communities. If those leaflets had been delivered by loners in hoods or by homeless people, who knows what moral germs they might have carried?

In conclusion, the Prime Minister said something about "renewing Britain as a modern social democracy" - the obligatory "little joke", one presumes. I wish speechwriters could be discouraged from their deplorable tendency to try and "humanise" politicians. The Prime Minister also "told the Cabinet that Labour was re-elected in May with a large majority because the British people share our values" - doubtless to renewed hilarity.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Labour, New Slammer

The Minister of Freedom, Charles Carde, has been talking nonsense, it appears. Well, that makes a change.

Mr Carde has been efficiently taken to task by the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, a charity which "advocates more work in communities to prevent reoffending and 'restorative justice' schemes to make offenders face their victims". Of Mr Carde's latest eructation on prison reform: "It is nonsense," said the happily-surnamed Frances Crook. "I hope he has a better grip on his brief by the time he addresses our conference in November."

In an effort to ease the infamous overcrowding in our prisons, which adds the virtue of British squalor to the effectiveness of British discipline, Mr Carde's predecessor imposed a cap of eighty thousand on the number of prisoners incarcerated in England and Wales. As the number of prisoners, not counting those detained without trial, has now got within three thousand of the forbidden number, Mr Carde has decided to take decisive action to remedy the situation. Mr Carde has decided to abolish the cap. Mr Carde is "not convinced a cap [is] the right policy". Mr Carde is not convinced that limiting the numbers of prisoners will keep the numbers of prisoners down.

Instead, Mr Carde wishes to build swathes of "community prisons" to enable prisoners to maintain contact with their relatives and friends. While this is not in itself a bad idea, if prison populations are to be allowed to continue rising it seems doubtful that even Mr Carde will be able to implement the programme as effectively as might be wished. The "community prisons" will provide more spaces, but the Government's continuing moist ménage á trois with the tabloids and custodial sentencing will mean that there are more people to fill the spaces up. Prisoners will simply be shunted to whatever prisons are able to hold them, as now, and there will be no movement on the issue except possibly a small upward surge in the bank balances of any private companies the Government employs to aid the redemption of Britain's wandering sheep.

Mr Carde is, of course, a prominent member of a government whose idea of legal accountability is to blame the law for being too stuffy and inflexible to encompass the vision filling Blair's moral bomb-sights. In the interests of ethical purity and fiscal prudence, it is surely time to ask whether such creatures are redeemable; and if not, to find some way of rendering them harmless. To apply Mr Carde's own harsh but doubtless well-meaning version of British justice, as presently applicable to Muslims and other luckless duskies: if left to walk around free, who knows what they might do next?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

News 2020

PM demands apology for BBC "anti-Americanism"

The Prime Minister has demanded that the BBC apologise "with absolute unconditionality" for alleged anti-American bias in its coverage of the effects of Hurricane Condi.

Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister had apologised for the BBC's coverage "with unconditional absolutivity" to media entrepreneur Rambot Murdchuck, the Australian-born American citizen who owns all Britain's news media apart from the BBC and the Peebles Morning Herald.

The BBC had "gloated with sadistic relish" over the suffering of an innocent nation, and had indulged in "conduct worthy of a ravening, unthinking beast" rather than the independent news agency which the Government paid it to be, the Prime Minister said.

The BBC has not yet responded directly to the charges, but former director-general Andrew Marr said that BBC journalists had probably been "weak rather than wicked".

He pointed to reports on the flagship programme Newsnugget in which reporter Myron Flatt stated that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, when America was attacked by terrorists, had "forced the US to become a nation-builder in the Middle East".

"Of course this could be taken as implying that America has to be forced into doing good, but you have to remember that professional journalists don't always have time to phrase things as neatly as they would like," Mr Marr said.

On the subject of Hurricane Condi, Newsnugget anchor ffyona Bruce-Bumstead had claimed that the Commander-in-Chief showed "a personal note of penitence" for Washington's inability to neutralise looters with sufficient promptitude.

It is believed that Ms Bruce-Bumstead's utterance has infuriated the White House, as it may provide grounds for personal lawsuits against the Commander-in-Chief by implying that he in some way accepted responsibility for bad things happening in the United States.

In fact, an inquiry authorised by the Commander-in-Chief and headed by the Commander-in-Chief exonerated the Commander-in-Chief of all such responsibility, but it is unclear whether Newsnugget, in attempting to balance its reporting on the hurricane, gave this fact sufficient emphasis.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

News 2020

Petrol prices fall again

Peak Petrol, a subsidiary of the Fadsa supermarket chain, today lowered its prices once more while accusing its rivals of "chronic non-receptivity to market forces".

The latest reduction follows revelations that ExxonMobShill and the American-owned BritOil both exaggerated forthcoming oil field discoveries in their reports to shareholders.

Both companies have since undergone extensive executive overhauls, with large punitive severance packages awarded to the departing board members.

"We believe the scale of these payments will serve as a deterrent to shareholders against further vindictive action," said industry spokesperson Nigel Feasting-Piranha today.

Mr Feasting-Piranha's statement also praised Fadsa and Peak Petrol for their "motorist opportunification enhancement measures", and expressed the hope that other retailers would follow suit in lowering their own prices.

"As oil becomes more and more scarce, obviously demand will rise out of all proportion to companies' ability to supply it," Mr Feasting-Piranha continued. "The time to raise prices will be when the supply runs out and profits can no longer legitimately be made in any other way."

The Chancellor issued a statement agreeing with Mr Feasting-Piranha's statement. "Obviously, if you are a fiscally responsible trading company there is no point in pricing yourself out of the market until you have nothing left to sell," he said.

Attempting to raise prices artificially just because the supply was about to run out would be "an inexcusable interference with the free market," the Chancellor said.

Fadsa, a subsidiary of the US chain Warmall Global, has lowered its petrol prices three times in the past month, sparking accusations of attempting to ignite a price war amid the fuse of a gathering tinderbox lighting a potentially explosive road to a smouldering energy crisis.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Abstemious,adj. Addicted to the drug of self-righteousness.

Double-glazing,n. Effective means of keeping at bay noise, wind and other symptoms of double-glazing salesmen.

Genre,n. A box for the packaging of entertainment and the imprisonment of art.

Idle,adj. Engaged in activities which will profit only oneself.

Knoffle,v.i. To eat greedily but furtively.
His succession of diets was steadily undermined by a succession of midnight knofflings.
Burple Vook

Libido,n. That which induces delusions of manhood in boys aged thirteen to sixty, and frequently beyond.

Murder,n. Deliberate homicide committed while out of uniform.

Objectivity,n. Subjectivity, seasoned with self-deception and served with assurance.

Retaliation,n. A just and measured reaction to the intolerable provocations of an enemy. Not to be confused with revenge, an act of implacable malevolence committed in the name of a fictitious grievance.
The foreign pages told the lot
About a man who had been shot;
He was a terroristic swine
Seeking revenge for Palestine.

In "Other News", I briefly read
About a child without a head;
A tank had sent the tyke to Hell
For chucking stones at Israel.
Gusper Flockett

Stockbroker,n. Indispensable organism whose function in life consists in the useful business of buying and selling other people's money with other people's money. The business is useful because it ensures a ready supply of other people's money to be used in the buying and selling of other people's money.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pauline Epistles

Fans of the Inquisitor of Tarsus are taking up the cudgels on his behalf. A new play about the well-known Jewish apostate, schismatic and dispenser of helpful advice on dyspepsia (see I Timothy 5:xxiii) has roused their righteous wrath.

The play, which is to be staged at the National Theatre in a week or two, is the work of Howard Brenton, author of The Romans in Britain, a "notorious work" in the Guardian's doubtless objective estimation. What "notorious" means in this context is that when The Romans in Britain was staged at the National Theatre by Michael Bogdanov in 1980, the self-appointed public censor and guardian of morals Mary Whitehouse brought a private prosecution for obscenity. The learned Ms Whitehouse presumably had either seen the play, in which case she evidently was not corrupted by it; or else had not seen the play, in which case she had no grounds on which to judge it. However, I am sad to find that her own legal team withdrew the prosecution before it had a chance to be laughed out of court.

The new play, unimaginatively titled Paul, is described by the National Theatre's management as being irreverent and provocative; while the theatre's director, Nicholas Hytner, incriminatingly admits that it is "not a devout play" and that "it won't be satisfying to a certain kind of devout Christian". Because of these indiscretions, Hytner has received a couple of hundred letters of complaint by people, presumably a certain kind of devout Christian, who have never seen the play.

Hytner says the complainants "are all praying for me, and they are telling me I will go to hell unless I take the play off". It appears that, to a certain kind of devout Christian, pretending to know the mind of God no longer exemplifies the sin of spiritual pride.

"They are all kind of the same letter," Hytner says. "They all assume that the play is about Paul's being homosexual and misogynist; they assume it's going to be a prurient hatchet job," which it isn't. It will be "interesting and amusing" for most of Hytner's acquaintances who happen to be "people of faith". I am not sure what a "person of faith", as distinct from a devout person, is supposed to be; but I presume Hytner means to convey that Paul is not going to be this year's Jerry Springer: The Opera. Damn shame.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Almahu at the Robert Aickman Appreciation site has generously given web space to another of my productions on this extraordinary writer. The website as a whole, and Robert Aickman's strange tales, are well worth your attention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More Bluster from the Disaster Area

Now that the mercenaries are in control, rather than God's undiluted will, George W Bush has paid his first visit to New Orleans since the hurricane struck. Presumably he was incentivised to this act of charity by the resignation of Michael Brown, the director of the federal emergency management agency which, when the emergency arrived, didn't quite manage.

Of course, the resignation was entirely Brown's decision. No doubt it will do his health good and will enable him to spend more time with his family. Possibly not least, it will "give the beleaguered agency a chance to refocus on the rescue and recovery effort". It appears that, under Brown's leadership, the agency was focused on something else. In a statement, Brown said he had told the president that it was important for him, Brown, to leave "to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of Fema". This certainly seems like the correct choice. If the director of an agency is distracting the agency from its ongoing mission, it certainly seems like a good idea that the director should be maximally opportunified to find alternative employment. That certainly seems reasonable.

As one might expect, Bush himself knows as much about the resignation as he did about the relief effort. During his one-day tour of the region after the disaster, Bush told Brown he was doing "a heck of a job"; a little later, when the job began to translate into a heck of a haemorrhage in the popularity ratings, Brown was called to Washington DC, where he subsequently made his very own, doubtless correct, decision to resign. Bush, however, was too busy to hear Brown's noble words about avoiding distraction from the ongoing: "I have been working," he told reporters. "I can't comment on something that you may know more about than I do."

There are some things about which George W Bush knows more than the rest of us, however. One of these is the behaviour of coastguard choppers; it appears that, as many suspected, Bush was not working while the coastguard choppers were pulling people off roofs. "When those coastguard choppers ... were pulling people off roofs, they didn't check the colour of a person's skin." The storm did not discriminate, said Bush, and neither would the recovery effort. Indeed, it would be foolish to deny the very high probability that wealthy blacks who could get out of New Orleans are receiving virtually the same level of service as wealthy whites.

Bush also took the opportunity to plug the performance of his friends from Blackwater, the mercenary group which has been guarding the palaces of the mighty during the late unpleasantness. The idea that the Middle East quagmire had hindered the federal response to the New Orleans quagmire was "preposterous", he said. "We've got plenty of troops to do both," he said. Let nobody doubt: America can shoot terrorists with one hand and looters with the other, and still have a little something left over for Iran. Gung ho.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

News 2020

America commemorates solemn anniversary

The US Commander-in-Chief has inaugurated the country's annual Homeland Security Pageant with the traditional 11 September speech in memory of those killed in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, when America was attacked by terrorists.

The terrorist attacks, which took place on 11 September 2001, have been anniversified every year on 11 September, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001.

The Commander-in-Chief paid tribute to the courage and fortitude of the American people, and praised the achievements of the American entrepreneurial spirit.

He particularly singled out for praise the example of Hallibechtel Kidz-E-Fun, the juvenile leisure corporation which has provided seven million collapsible World Trade Centre models, four million Twin Towers on sticks, and 500,000 bouncy World Trade Centres at bargain prices for the festivities.

Within sight of the original site of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, when America was attacked by terrorists, the toy company has set up a 40-foot sugar-coated model of the Twin Towers, which will be flown into by two remotely controlled model airliners at 8:00am local time on 11 September, which this year will be the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 11 September which took place.

Local children will then be invited to climb across the "ruins" and search for replica terrorist passports, which will entitle the finders to prizes which Hallibechtel are keeping a closely guarded secret.

The experience of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, when America was terroristically attacked, showed above all that "in America, good can come even out of the evillest evil", the Commander-in-Chief said.

"Out of the Nazi holocaust came the state of Israel. Out of every hurricane that hits our shores come contracts for American business folks to build fine hotels and Christian casinos. And out of the 11 September attacks on America when America was attacked came the Homeland Constitution," he said.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Incentivising Political Engagement

The independent, sovereign government of Iraq - the one that rules Baghdad with the help of a hundred thousand foreign fighters - has announced that a "major operation" has begun to kick-start the political process in the northern town of Talafar.

The Americans, who have proven so reliable in the past about such things as weapons of mass destruction and illegal imports of uranium, have informed the independent, sovereign Iraqi government that "the town is being used as a staging post by foreign fighters crossing into Iraq from Syria". Accordingly, US forces have been bombing the place, doubtless upon the orders of the independent, sovereign Iraqi prime minister, who has said that "insurgents and foreign fighters had been actively destroying life in the town", as US air strikes manifestly do not.

The air strikes were launched against a neighbourhood which "the Americans suspected of being under the control of insurgents", and once they were done, all males over the age of twenty who remained in one piece were arrested. The US military, with the consent of the independent, sovereign Iraqi government of course, "drove the insurgents out of Talafar a year ago, only for them to return once the troops had withdrawn"; doubtless they missed out either the air strikes or the arrests, since these tactics are self-evidently going to prove effective this time.

In a strange, wholly coincidental echo of US hurricane evacuation policy, the authorities have "urged residents to leave". The BBC's Jon Brain, who is not in Talafar but half-way down the country in Baghdad, says that "80% of the town's inhabitants, who are mainly Sunni Muslims, are now believed to have left Talafar". Jon Brain does not say who believes this. The uncharitable might suspect that this is because said believer is, like Jon Brain, in Baghdad and not in Talafar. Assuming the belief is correct, one can only hope the Americans have not thought to put a cordon round the town, as the presence of a hundred and sixty thousand refugees might complicate the operation somewhat.

But nowadays, of course, it isn't the Americans who are running things. The independent, sovereign Iraqi government has sent in its very own, Iraqi forces, "operating with support from the Multi-National Force". That will make all the difference.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Unbuilding Contractors

Now, here's a shock: the pirates in Iraq are diverting funds approved for reconstruction in order to pay mercenaries; and also for some intriguingly designated "other uses". Well, I wonder what those could be.

Apparently, "after Congress approved funding two years ago, oil, electricity, water and sanitation facilities were found to be more degraded than expected." It happens. You get the builders in, sign a cheque; they half demolish your house and then they find the job is bigger than they quoted for. It's just life. In the case of Iraq, of course, the house was someone else's and we demolished it ourselves; but it would be unduly harsh to expect the occupation forces to have any real idea of the damage they'd inflicted. It hardly seems fair to expect professional soldiers to know just where and how every itty-bitty little smart bomb landed.

However, some are not so tolerant as the master race of said master race's human failings: "Amid the chaos and corruption of the post-Saddam administration, insurgents began to target the infrastructure and anyone working for the US or the Iraqi government." That "post-Saddam administration" is rather fine; if one had sufficient memory-control and kept one's eyes tight shut, one might almost prevent the words "American-run" or "L. Paul Bremer" from sneaking across the consciousness.

Nevertheless, a report by the Government Accountability Office blames "attacks, threats and intimidation against project contractors and subcontractors" for the occupation's inability to reconstruct Iraq's water, electricity and sanitation in accordance with the free market and general profitability. Of the water projects which have been completed and handed over to the Iraqi authorities, a quarter no longer work "because of "looting, unreliable electricity or inadequate Iraqi staff and supplies".

There are about twenty thousand "foreign security contractors" in Iraq. The regular occupation forces don't count as "foreign security contractors", presumably because they (a) are not foreign (the Iraqis are foreign, especially when they blow us up); and, (b) by virtue of provoking the insurgency in the first place, are not making a very impressive contribution to security. Assuming the looting mentioned by the Government Accountability Office is by the insurgents and not the occupation, and assuming all the trained technicians are being intimidated away by the Forces of Evil, one wonders what exactly the security forces are doing to merit the diversion of funds.

The "foreign security contractors" (mercenaries, in Oldspeak) are somewhat better paid than the average grunt; some of them are getting more than a thousand dollars a day. I am sure they are earning every penny. It is no doubt thanks to this elite that "the health ministry says the overall rate of disease among children under five has dropped" despite "a surge in cases of dehydration and diarrhoea among children and the elderly". It looks as if the weaklings are finally starting to die off quickly enough to show up as an improvement in the sickness statistics.

Also, "parts of Baghdad are noticeably sprucer; and thousands of schools have been built or rehabilitated", though one wonders if anyone dares to teach in them, and if so, where they get their textbooks. "Electricity generation has recently climbed above pre-war levels" - above, that is to say, the levels when the notorious sanctions were still in force. And all this a mere twenty-eight months after Mission Accomplished. Yet "crude oil production is around 2.2m barrels a day, still below its pre-war peaks." Have they no idea what the price of petrol is nowadays? Ingratitude, thy name is Iraq.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

News 2020

Commander-in-Chief slams nonpromptitudity of fiscal compassion

The US Commander-in-Chief has criticised international relief efforts aimed at helping American subjects who claim to have been left destitute in the wake of Hurricane Condi last year.

Ever since the disaster, aid has been flooding in from the British mainland as well as from Europe, Japan and south-east Asia.

In his address from the newly waterproofed Oval Bunker today, the Commander-in-Chief directed his criticisms against countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, which have failed to entirely fulfil the pledges they made in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

"It is not the American way for governments to fail to keep their promises, just as it is not the American way to desert fellow citizens in their hour of need or strike the first blow in war when there is an extra mile for peace to be gone," the Commander-in-Chief said.

The lack of the aid promised by the three countries was "a sad reflection on the moral values of the non-Christian part of the world", the Commander-in-Chief said.

Many potential street-cleaners and other humble-grade resources in Florida were too spendthrift to evacuate when requested by the federal government, and are now in danger of constituting a "drag on homeland attitude positivity", the Commander-in-Chief said.

Although some pressure groups blamed the federal government for not doing enough to prevent the hurricane, an investigation headed by the Commander-in-Chief himself absolved the Commander-in-Chief and his immediate subordinates of all responsibility for the disaster.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Brute,n. A human being behaving like an animal behaving like a human being.

Doable,adj. Possible for the illiterate.

Garnish,v.t. To decorate the grave of a culinary holocaust.

Hell,n. The poorer of the two available hotels in town, being the one with more residents and less favourable publicity.

Mercy,n. Quality which, as a certain Shakespeare once put it, droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. Since his time, of course, global warming has increased the prevalence of drought.

Numeral,n. Sign placed after the title of certain films, denoting to the expert the degree of their artistic merit and lasting value to the world.

Opticle,n. A pad of fat bulging from the bottom of an eye socket; an overloaded bag.
The smile spread like a plague over his face, his eyeballs vanishing whole inside his insatiable opticles.
Vibbler Zeets

Pathetic Fallacy,n. The vice of attributing anthropomorphic sentiments to the lifeless and inanimate, e.g. the belief that political ambition can be moved for humanitarian ends.

Requisition,v.t. The privilege, accorded armed forces in wartime, of looting their own country.

Stoical,adj. Manifesting a heroic indifference to the suffering of others.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Preaching at the Deserted

When they come to teach creationism alongside the theory of evolution, biology classes won't be the only ones to benefit. As hurricanes and other symptoms of climate change grow more and more popular, and as equal time for the religious is demanded with ever greater rigour, the teaching of other "scientific" subjects must surely adapt to demand.

A start has been made in New Orleans, it seems. Faith-based organisations are already engaged in fruitful debate as to whom God may have been punishing - abortionists, the US government for not being right-wing enough, SUV drivers or "all Americans for going to war in Iraq". Since most of the victims of Katrina are sons of Ham - the social group which also comprises a goodly portion of the US infantry - it certainly seems convenient to assume that Iraq had something to do with it. No true American preacher is going to ask the car-owning classes to repent their SUVs, after all.

A Baptist chaplain from Dallas, Texas does not agree that the hurricane was God's retribution. "God did not cause this; he allowed it to happen." Seemingly God is not vengeful so much as criminally negligent; perhaps he and George W Bush really are on the same side. Many victims have asked the Baptist chaplain why God did it. He tells them "God is with them today"; a great comfort, no doubt. The mere trappings of earthly existence - home, job, the odd friend or relative - are clearly a cheap price to pay for the personal company of a deity.

Faith-based vultures are "flocking" to the disaster area, generously unmindful that the chance of immediate transport to Heaven has at last begun to recede. The less spiritually oriented are bringing water and mobile phones to pander to the base earthly needs of the thousands of potential converts; others, who have advanced beyond mere utilitarianism, "ponder the religious significance of Katrina".

Three or four hundred Scientologists have also moved in and "plan to stay for weeks". Apparently the Scientologists have "mounted similar operations" after 11 September 2001, after the tsunami in Sri Lanka, and in Florida after last year's hurricane. They have also been in Israel and Africa, which no doubt accounts for the way Scientology has caught on in both locations.

"There's no religious aspect towards helping someone," a Scientologist said, while wearing "the distinctive Church of Scientology minister T-shirt" to blaze his religious wares at his more credulous beneficiaries. Religion "means bringing people together," not helping them. Religion, as we know, has two basic ways of bringing people together. It brings them together in unquestioning faith, frequently under duress; or else it brings them together head to head, often with a very loud bang. It is not clear which of these alternatives the Scientologists have in mind; if God's own cholera doesn't get them all first, perhaps we shall find out.

Monday, September 05, 2005

You Think You've Got Problems

Tony Blair, who is in China talking about underwear, has gently chastised those of his congregation who have returned to Britain with horror stories about conditions in New Orleans.

As so often, what the Americans do, the British do. The Americans are not much interested in helping British nationals, and so neither are we. Survivors have "criticised the lack of help from British embassy staff in the US and demanded to know why consular staff, who knew that scores of Britons were trapped in the stadium, did not find a way in to help them." Apparently it has dawned on Blair that this attitude may not be altogether beneficial from that public-relations standpoint which is his infallible moral compass.

Blair said comfortingly that "he expected the current total of around 130 missing Britons to fall", which speaks encouragingly of his confidence that the Bush administration is better at recovering and identifying corpses than it is at helping live human beings. He added that "the UK was helping to coordinate a European aid package, including ration packs and camp beds to be sent to the stricken areas" of the world's richest country.

The Guardian calls Blair's statement an "apology", apparently because he claimed to be "really sorry if there has been difficulties" (sic). It seems likely that Blair was expressing Christian sympathy with the victims' plight rather than actual penitence, since he went on to put those singular difficulties sternly in perspective: "It's been really tough for people, I know that, but it's been tough for our officials on the ground."

The situation, you see, was "more shocking and serious" than the merely trapped, frightened and bewildered victims contemplated. Diplomats have been working "round the clock", presumably since the hurricane struck; but were permitted to enter the city only last night. It certainly must have been a terrible experience for them. The risks of drowning and disease, the consciousness of abandonment, the intimidation and harassment, the possibility of rape and murder - all fall to nothing compared to the suffering of British officialdom when dealing with Blair's best buddy and Britain's greatest ally.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Good Christian Folks

Having taken a mere four days to grasp the urgency of the flood situation, George W Bush has swung into action. Doing nothing hasn't worked. Pious platitudes haven't worked, even with Fox News. So Bush has moved down to the next item on the checklist: augmented military presence. Bush has ordered an extra 17,000 troops into the Gulf Coast area, including "elite combat units" - property protection with extreme non-racial prejudice, presumably. One hopes they can adjust to the idea that "taking someone out" in the Homeland actually means, y'know, taking them out.

Bush noted the government's "responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast" - perhaps someone told him New Orleans is full of damp little Jebs - and said it was "unacceptable" that "many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need". Although Bush has apparently not yet gone so far as to commandeer the resources of private health care companies to relieve the emergency, one shudders at his apostasy.

After all, American citizens who actually contribute to the economy - the ones with private vehicles and household insurance - are presumably in a minority among the thousands still trapped inside the city. Certainly they are unlikely to constitute a significant number among those other thousands reported to be "waiting for buses that failed to come because there was no plan for housing the victims elsewhere". And the more corpses and other detritus that remain to be cleared up, the more employment there will be when those aquatic relocatees who cannot pay their hotel bills are sent back to commence reconstruction. What need is there, in all this, for big-government interference? Can't the free market take care of things on its ownsome?

Still, at least the US government has retained some sense of priority. Loftily ignoring the state of the American health system, welfare system, prison system, etc., Bush has proclaimed that "In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need"; and our fellow citizens is exactly what he meant. Foreigners - even citizens of the elite combat units' most abject accomplice - are not a priority. "According to those who remain stranded in the stricken city, police had visited hotels and guest houses on the eve of the hurricane offering to evacuate Americans, but not Britons." Telephone operators have been helping the economy along by "refusing to accept collect calls from stranded Britons," and, no doubt, from nationals of lesser significance also.

Among those stranded is "a woman recovering from breast cancer who had been confined to a hotel room by herself because of fears over her immune system." The adventure should do her good. If it doesn't, let's hope she was on the NHS; or, better still, a smoker. Then, when all this is over, Tony can go and make one of his nice Atlanticist speeches to Congress, thanking the great nation which, even in its darkest hour, still helped to ease the burden of the British taxpayer.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Wind in the South

Asked how the richest country on Earth could not meet the needs of its people, Bush said: "I am satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with all the results."
Associated Press

A mere four days into the New Orleans disaster, encouraging news: according to Senator Mary Landrieu George W Bush "is starting to grasp the magnitude of the situation". Although this promptitude of responsivity may surprise the cynical, it seems predictable enough. He's had to cut his holiday short, after all.

Bush spent a whole day touring Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, in the fine fast tradition of the stereotypical American tourist who believes he can see St Paul's Cathedral, the Lake District and the Isle of Skye in a couple of hours. Having given the devastation one day's attention, Bush said, "I understand the devastation requires more than one day's attention." This is certainly an encouraging sign.

After a stroll through a devastated area in Mobile, Alabama, Bush said that where it wasn't working right, he and his colleagues would make it right; and that where it was working right, he and his colleagues would duplicate the rightness elsewhere. Hopefully, this will mean a steady spread of rightness, abetted by market forces and the demise of those undeserving poor whose demise God's will decrees. Bush also recommended stabilising the situation and making sure that food and medicine was given to people who need food and medicine. His sense of priority has certainly improved since 11 September 2001 and My Pet Goat.

Though he apparently felt it would be a breach of taste to walk upon the flood waters, Bush dispensed compassionate-conservative comfort and valuable down-home advice to a couple of women in Biloxi, Mississippi. "He kissed both women on their heads and walked with his arms around them, telling them they could get help from the Salvation Army." He expressed understanding of their plight and told them to "hang in there".

Bush also rejected suggestions that the USA cannot afford to continue colonising Iraq while cleaning up after Katrina. "We've got plenty of resources to do both," he said, meanwhile urging people to make charitable donations to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. The resources may be there, but it would be foolish to spend them needlessly - especially when, however unsatisfactory the results, the response has been going so well.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Beautician,n. Specialist in tact, mirror tricks and clay modelling.

City,n.(Military) Wide protective perimeter surrounding a military installation.

Deport,v.t. To expel from one's own country someone whom a friendly government wishes to persecute.

Epsicule,n. A very short chapter.
Her marriage was not so much an episode she wished to forget as an epsicule she could barely recall.
Barbara Taylor Bumphodder

Glib,adj. Too articulate for the moral well-being of those more malleable than oneself.

Idiom,n. The means by which a particular social group makes itself incomprehensible to others.

Koran,n. Barbarous document which incites Muslims to periodic frenzies of uncontrolled lust for Christian blood. Across its benighted pages crawl such alien, blasphemous figures as Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Jacob and Jesus; the whole thing would thus be quite ludicrous to the properly Christian mind even if it were not also littered with such grotesque exhortations as "Thou shalt not kill".

No-man's-land,n. The hospitable zone of an international disagreement, from which few return even though thousands go in.

Sarcasm,n. The lowest form of wit, as understood by those who lack the wit to use it.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

News 2020

Chimpanzees officially extinct in the wild

The last remaining chimpanzee resources existing in the wild have been destroyed by non-westernised Africans, scientists announced today.

The killings mean that chimps have followed the gorilla, orang-utan and bonobo into extinction or near-extinction, though it is possible that some individual apes may still survive in illegal private collections.

The chimpanzee tribe is thought to have been slaughtered for its meat, which is a delicacy among globalisation-resistant elements of the African population.

"This unfortunate event is yet another indication of the poverty and ignorance which can result from an anti-globalisation stance," said British minister of biodiversity Logger Swivey.

"We must take every biodiversificatory capacitance enhancement measure possible in the present economic climate to prevent this happening again unless the demands of necessity and honour make it unavoidable," Mr Swivey said.

The US Commander-in-Chief was reported to be "saddened" at the death of the chimpanzees. "Despite the fact that evolution has been largely discredibilitised as being only a theory, I definitely feel as if I have lost a close predecessor," he said.

He also condemned the killing of the apes on economic grounds. "The demand for these resources clearly outstripped supply, and therefore the supply should not have been interfered with," he said.

But he expressed confidence that, should a new chimpanzee species be required, market forces would ensure the fulfilment of the need.