The Curmudgeon


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

That Memo

The MP, self-publicist and professional twit for Henley, Boris Johnson, has clambered blathering onto his high horse over Lord Goldsmith's invocation of the Official Secrets Act. Lord Goldsmith has warned newspaper editors against publication of a memo in which the canine partner in the Holy Alliance persuaded George Bush not to bomb al-Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar. In what Goldsmith and the BBC are pleased to call a clarification, the Attorney General later said that he was acting independently of the government which appointed him, and that the very idea of the Official Secrets Act being used to prevent political embarrassment was "completely not the case at all".

Boris says that "the Attorney General's ban is ridiculous, untenable, and redolent of guilt," which is perfectly true. Boris offers to publish and risk going to jail if someone will send him the document. The prospect of spending time inside a jail must seem a low price to pay for the chance to pose as a champion of free speech, particularly now that Jeffrey Archer is on the outside.

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant," Boris proclaims. "If we suppress the truth ... we become as sick and as bad as our enemies." On the other hand, Boris does "not like people to break the Official Secrets Act, and ... would not object to the continued prosecution of those who are alleged to have broken it". Sunlight, like everything else, must learn to know its place.

In the interests of solar antisepticism, Boris notes that the Americans have rather an impressive record of blowing up news agencies: "They blew up the Kabul bureau of al-Jazeera in 2002, and they pulverised the Baghdad bureau in April 2003, killing one of the reporters. In 1999 they managed to blow up the Serb TV station, killing two make-up girls, in circumstances that were never satisfactorily explained." The Conservative party makes much of its wish to support victims rather than criminals, and Boris, as usual, is the exception. We must, he says, be fair to the Americans. Al-Jazeera "is hugely respected in the Arab world, has about 35 million viewers"; yet, in one of those infuriating paradoxes which are so common with foreign types, "it gives what can only be described as a thoroughly Arab perspective of current affairs". Well, of all the cheek.

Yet there is worse. A thoroughly Arab perspective, as Boris explains, means that al-Jazeera "assists in the glorification of suicide bombers; it publishes the rambling tapes of Bin Laden and others among the world's leading creeps and whackos; it is overwhelmingly hostile to America and sceptical about the neo-con project of imposing western values and political systems in the Middle East." Although this is all "recognizably journalism" and apparently no worse than the BBC even in the eyes of the editor of the Spectator, one can certainly understand the senior partner in the Holy Alliance becoming a bit annoyed.

Still, "if there is an ounce of truth in the notion that George Bush seriously proposed the destruction of al-Jazeera, and was only dissuaded by the Prime Minister, then we need to know". I quite agree, and if Boris can publish the memo I shall happily do likewise; although I am not sure how knowledge of the memo will fulfil the "need to know what we have been fighting for". Whatever the poodle may have thought about bombing al-Jazeera, the war aims of the Holy Alliance have been reasonably clear from the start. Many of us knew long ago, and Boris ought to have realized by process of elimination, that we are fighting for US control of the Middle East's remaining energy resources.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Christian,n. Anyone who sees their own moral code embodied in the preachings of an ancient Palestinian religious fundamentalist of no reliably attested existence. Said preachings have included, at various times and for various sects: non-resistance to enemies; persecution of nonbelievers; failing to keep the Sabbath; forcibly enforcing the Sabbath; absolute communism; free-market capitalism; defying earthly kings; bowing down to earthly kings; self-abasement; self-torture; self-aggrandisement; anti-semitism; resistance to anti-semitism; and the eternal damnation of all atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, pagans and any stray Christians whose doctrine may happen to diverge from the true one.

Diamond,n. An expensive arrangement of carbon molecules.

Emergency,n. A constitutional convenience, created or exacerbated by a politician in order to justify to an uncomprehending public a necessary arrogation of power by the said politician.

Irritation,n. A feeling occasioned by the tactless showing of starving children on the lunchtime news.

Oil,n. A substance extracted from beneath troubled lands, to be poured onto troubled waters and into the troubled air.

Prison,n. Tabloids' remedy for any form of behaviour which does not merit capital punishment. A place where criminals are sent so that they can associate intimately and educationally with other criminals, at the taxpayer's expense, often for a period of years.

Retropod,adj. Equipped, like certain birds, with one or more backward-facing toes. In more colloquial usage, having entire feet screwed on the wrong way.
"Some poet - his iambics are all retropod."
Bopsle Dribb

Skull,n. Container for grey matter, such as cobwebs.

Vote,n. In the electoral market-place, a receipt given to successive shopkeepers by the consumer, indicating the willingness of the latter to be swindled by the former.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cameron's Children

David Cameron, one of two people called David who aspire to lead the Conservative party to its next defeat, has begun the Sisyphean task of the Great Redefinition with a helpful hint. "The Tory party is many things, I don't think it is an internet party," he said.

In order to prove just how non-internet the Tory party is, David Cameron has come up with a proposal to drag Britain's youth back into the early 1960s. As with everything in British politics except the Freedom of Information Act, Cameron's proposal has been plagiarised from the United States - in this case, from Kennedy's Peace Corps. The idea is to tackle the "ghettoisation" of Britain's inner cities by getting school leavers to build hospitals in Rwanda and work with social services in Stepney. Gosh. As with National Service, it could be compulsory; and the military might be involved, as with National Service. "This is not bringing back National Service," Mr Cameron told the Political Studies Association's conference on Britishness. The Political what?

The Political Studies Association, which considers itself the leading association in its field in the UK, today hosted a Values of Britishness conference for which, to my nearly lasting regret, I am too late to register. The idea was to discuss "the future of a multi-faith, multi-ethnic Britain" and such burning questions as "How 'British' do we feel?" and "What do we mean by 'Britishness'?"; and David Cameron apparently used the Keynote Address as an excuse to flog his warmed-over dead president's colonialism-lite to the Conservative Party's 300,000 non-internet users. No doubt the Political Studies Association was duly grateful.

Other speakers included the Secretary General of the Muslim Council, the First Minister of Scotland, a sociologist, the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, and someone from the Centre from the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster. Lord Kinnock, co-redefinitionist of the Labour party, was there too. So were three representatives of the business community, which must have been a great help.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

News 2020

Charities warned of pensions crisis

Workers in Britain's charitable sector face "superannuation meltdown" unless they work longer and save more, the Chancellor warned today.

The Chancellor's warning came after the publication of a Government report warning that "an unprecedented financial crisis" was causing "moderately unparalleled levels of discomfort" among the offspring of former public sector workers.

The children of teachers, nurses and other workers in the former public sector, are statistically more likely to suffer from symptoms which previous Goverment-sponsored reports have tentatively linked to poverty.

The symptoms include lack of appropriate human resource training, difficulty in finding employment, over-utilisation of health vouchers and lack of disposable income.

"The sorry state of ex-public offspring indicates the consequences of failing to maximise future optionalities," the Chancellor said today.

For twenty years before the final liberation of the public sector, the Government warned workers that they would have to work longer and save more, he continued.

But despite initiatives such as the raising of the age of retirement and consistent opportunification enhancement for private pension schemes, many workers had failed to advantagise themselves.

Ironically, charity workers who have utilised the work opportunities which have been up-opened by the decline of the public sector could face exactly the same problems when they reach labour market nonviability.

In an indication of Government concern over the problem, the Chancellor warned today that workers would have to work longer and save more.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More Moral Uplift for Africa

The Vicar of Downing Street, who has been trying to improve the minds of the benighted fuzzy-wuzzies, seems to have come a bit of a cropper.

The leader of the opposition in Uganda, Kizza Besigye, has been arrested on charges of terrorism, and a military court has ordered him to be held in custody until another hearing in a month's time. Besigye's supporters think that the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for twenty years, is trying to stop Besigye from standing as a candidate next March. Tony, who knows all about detaining people without trial at the whim of military courts, has made clear his concerns. "It is one of the basic principles of the Commonwealth that there should be proper respect for the proper functioning of democracy," he said; "and, therefore, what has been happening in Uganda has caused us a great deal of concern."

Unfortunately, President Museveni has an unfair advantage, namely a sense of humour: "Nobody is going to stop Besigye standing for election but there's also the question of the wrong actions he is alleged to be involved in," he said. He added: "I hope no one in the international community is arguing that anyone is above the law."

Of course, Tony knows perfectly well that he and the senior partner in the Holy Alliance, George Bush, are well above any laws made by man, and just a tad or two above the Sixth Commandment; but one does not admit that sort of thing in front of the children. It might give them ideas.

Still heaping coals, Museveni went on to mention some of Britain's previous contributions to democracy in Uganda: "The British came to Uganda to establish a colonial administration in 1890 and left in 1962 and in all that time, 70 years, we had elections only twice, one in 1961 and one in 1962. The one in 1961 was badly organised. There was no democracy for all the time the British were in Uganda."

He might also have mentioned that there was precious little democracy for some time after we left. As Mark Curtis has made clear, British support for Sir Cyril Taylor's comrade in the King's African Rifles, Idi Amin, was enthusiastic from the start and remained so during the eighteen months of butchery from January 1971 to June 1972. "We cannot tell him to stop murdering people," observed the High Commissioner in Kampala, Richard Slater. Only when Amin started frothing at the mouth about "imperialists" and deporting British passport holders did the British prime minister, Edward Heath, send a lachrymose note of farewell:

"The British government have gone out of their way to try to be friendly and cooperate with Uganda ever since your administration took over. We were and are very anxious to help you in all the economic and security problems which face your country. I have hoped that our personal relations could be close."

When Heath died, the Vicar of Downing Street eulogised him as "a man of great integrity and beliefs". Imagine that.

Friday, November 25, 2005

News 2020

Resigning Israeli PM offers new hope for peace process

The Israeli prime minister, Dov Shikkelgruber, resigned from the cabinet and the leadership of the Responsible Nationalist party yesterday.

In a statement, Mr Shikkelgruber said that the Responsible Nationalist party had "drifted away from the political centre" in a series of moves which threatened to derail the peace process.

The Responsible Nationalist party was originally formed by the former Israeli prime minister and three times Newsweek Man of Peace nominee Ariel Sharon, in an effort to map out a "third way" between the policies of existing political parties.

At present, Israeli politics are split over the issue of terrorism emanating from the Palestinian mega-camps, in which up to three Israeli tanks are severely dented every day.

The official policy of the right-wing Likud party is "peaceful reclamation" of the territory occupied by the mega-camps, which the party has called "unacceptable rents in the nation's fabric".

The leftist Labour Party, on the other hand, favours a policy of containment, including the building of higher and stronger walls around the camps while maintaining a moderately uncompromised negotiating stance with those Palestinian leaders who are acceptable to the White House.

Mr Shikkelgruber said he hoped to find a "middle way" between the two political extremes. "Extremism in politics can often lead to unfortunate events, and is generally to be avoided," he said.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Best Days of their Lives

Sir Cyril Taylor, who is chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, is a seventy-year-old graduate of the Harvard Business school and former brand management resource for Procter and Gamble. As a child he served as a native platoon commander in Britain's dirty war against Kenya's independence movement and, as one would expect of a Blair government adviser, was an active member of the Conservative party until that party lost the 1997 election. Since then, as one would expect of a Blair government adviser, he has had "no political affiliations".

Sir Cyril, who is a "key adviser" to the Secretary of State for Human Resource Maturation, Ruth Kelly, has made a compelling moral case for getting children out of care and into boarding schools. It's cheaper.

A child in foster care costs the state fifteen to twenty thousand pounds a year, and might be as much as fifty thousand. Of course, Britain's children are not worth that much, particularly those without appropriate family values. On the other hand, claims Sir Cyril, "the cost of a state boarding school is only £7,000 per year." Despite the obvious ethical necessity, however, "only some 3,000 or so of the 70,000 children in public care in the UK are placed in boarding schools."

About forty-two thousand such children are living in foster homes, the rest being in public and private residential children's homes. "Sadly there is little stability in the lives of these children as there are frequent changes in both their foster parents and their school," Sir Cyril said. "It cannot be right that a young child is moved around in this way," particularly when it costs so much.

Besides, Sir Cyril said, "children from 'broken homes' were often among the best pupils at boarding school". So it wouldn't just be cheap; it would be a painless transition for the boarding schools. I wonder what the Secretary of State for Human Resource Maturation is waiting for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What We Are Living With

The possibility of a diplomatic solution to the clash of fundamentalisms over Iran's nuclear programme is a cause of "real, genuine" concern for the Vicar of Downing Street.

The Press Association, which is happy to regurgitate George W Bush's "rogue state" designation without distancing quotation marks, reports that Tony is deeply, deeply worried - not only about the nuclear problem and, presumably, its possible solution by Russia, but also about Iran's "support for terrorism" and its "meddling" in Iraq. Support for terrorism and meddling in Iraq, you see, are two things that Tony would never, ever do, and Tony does not believe other people should do them either. Tony knows all about motes and beams, you see.

"On each of those three issues we have real, genuine cause for concern," the Vicar of Downing Street said. His concern arises because Iran, unlike the United States, is "a powerful country with a large part of the world's energy resources at their disposal." If Iran did develop an independent nuclear deterrent, it would be "a very serious threat to world stability and peace", presumably because it might deter the United States and its little helper from using white phosphorous to democratise the recalcitrant Persians.

Tony's long-term goal, you see, remains "the spread of democracy and human rights in the Middle East". When Tony has achieved this, much will change "with the security and other problems we have in the world today." But it's an uphill struggle, you see:

"I think for far too many of these regimes in the Middle East, they entered into a kind of unspoken pact with their people, with parts of their civic society where, in return for very low levels of political and human rights, you ended up with a religious extremist element being given its head. And I think that is what we are living with."

What Britain and America are living with, you see, is not necessarily permissible for Iran.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Safer Efficiency, Controversial Difficulty

The rules of the game have changed. Over the last couple of years, nuclear power has become safer, cleaner, and more efficient than ever. Tony says it, so it must be true.

The Reverend acknowledged that there were "strongly held positions on issues such as nuclear power". This means that "About energy security and supply that will mean issues that are bound to be extremely controversial ... there are going to be difficult and controversial decisions government has got to take." However, as one would expect from the administration that gave us Iraq and PFI, "in the end it has got to do what it believes to be right in the long-term interests of the country."

The trade and industry secretary has devised a series of tests to see if nuclear power stations are now "much safer and produce less waste per unit of energy produced", as is claimed by the Reverend's personal scientific adviser, the well-known optimist Sir David King. The tests will determine whether the new power stations "can be shown to operate without subsidy, handle waste safely, and not be vulnerable to lethal terrorist attack."

The trade and industry secretary is scheduled to insist that the Reverend has not yet decided in favour of a dash for nuclear power, no matter what his chief scientific adviser may say upon the matter. The Reverend's chief scientific adviser believes that a "ballpark cost" for waste storage could be established in advance and factored into the "economic process" by the nuclear industry. He does not seem to have specified the limits of the ballpark; but the nuclear industry will, of course, tell the truth, no matter what the consequences for its own fate.

Safely, lethal and above all without subsidy are relative terms, no doubt. British Nuclear Fuels has suggested that the industry might set up a fund to cover the costs of waste disposal, but has indicated that it would prefer the government to "encourage the City to invest" in this glamorous growth industry. Thanks to market forces, consumer choice, the long-term national interest and so forth, the taxpayer spent three and a half billion installing Sizewell B, and a further fifty-six billion is the estimated cost for decommissioning existing power stations. Looks tempting.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Beatable Britain

A leather whip is to be displayed at the Museum of London for the first time since its excavation fifteen years ago. The utensil has multiple thongs and was found on a thousand-year-old rubbish dump off Cheapside in London.

Archaeologists have had a hard time explaining its presence, as the wave of unauthorised immigrants known as the Norman Conquest had not yet adulterated the Britishness of the city's inhabitants. This is presumably why tentative explanations such as sexual sadism or religious fanaticism have been rejected by experts.

The museum's curator now believes the whip was probably used for disciplining slaves. This seems fairly convincing; few things are more British than corporal punishment, although many of us have yet to attain the civilised attitude of Gore Vidal that it is best practised between consenting adults.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Paul Schrader 2005

The subordinating subtitle, "Prequel to The Exorcist", does Dominion an injustice. Despite its original raison d'être - a cash-in effects-fest for Morgan Creek Productions - Dominion is quite capable of standing by itself.

The film's peculiar production history is tolerably well known. After its original director, John Frankenheimer, died at the helm, Paul Schrader was brought in to replace him. Schrader completed the film, but Morgan Creek disliked it so much that they hired a third director, Renny Harlin, to re-shoot it. The Harlin version was released as Exorcist: The Beginning; apparently it has the same basic story as Dominion, but with a few different characters and a lot more special effects.

But Dominion deserves to be known as more than simply the commercial runt of a pair of cinematographic Siamese twins. Indeed, like the Exorcist sequels - John Boorman's Exorcist II: The Heretic and William Peter Blatty's Exorcist III - it is, in many ways, rather better than the original. Visually it is very impressive, shot by Vittorio Storaro and set, like the most chilling and atmospheric scenes in The Exorcist, at an architectural dig in an ancient country.

There are rough edges, of course. Although the ungainliness of the CGI hyenas, for this viewer at least, actually helps the film's atmosphere of unnatural threat, the CGI cattle are slightly less convincing than pantomime horses. A couple of lines in the script, while not quite ludicrous, are unnecessarily explicit and overwrought: "This boy is possessed!" squeaks Gabriel Mann at one point. For pedants like myself, Stellan Skarsgård as Father Merrin, though an unimpeachable actor, does not look remotely like Max Von Sydow, even twenty-five years younger.

On the whole, though, Dominion is really rather fine. It opens in 1944 in Holland, where an SS officer is carrying out reprisals for the killing of one of his men. He first asks Merrin to name the culprit ("these people confess to you"). When Merrin says that none of his parishioners carried out the killing, the officer says he will shoot ten of them as an object-lesson for the real culprit. Merrin offers his own life, but the officer is not interested: "You'd like that, wouldn't you." He tells Merrin to choose the ten to be killed; if he does not, the whole community will be massacred. As Merrin prays, the officer pats his shoulder and tells him gently, "God isn't here today." Faced with the choice of ten deaths against dozens, Merrin points out ten people for execution.

After the war, in the midst of a crisis of faith, Merrin is working as an archaeologist in British East Africa. A sixth-century Christian church has been found, its stones almost unmarked by weathering; the place has been built and then deliberately buried. Instead of looking towards heaven, the statues of St Michael and his cohorts stare down at the earth, sword in hand. The church has been erected and buried to keep a powerful demon imprisoned; once freed, the demon possesses a crippled youth and his baleful influence is felt throughout the camp.

Tensions rise with the arrival of a detachment of British troops, whom Merrin's young colleague Father Francis (Gabriel Mann) has called in to safeguard the church's considerable treasures - or, as Merrin cynically implies, to save them from looters other than the British Museum. When two soldiers try to steal a few jewels and are gruesomely killed, the British major behaves almost exactly like the SS lieutenant in the prologue, even to the extent of murdering a young woman to indicate the seriousness of his wish for co-operation. Even his own troops are horrified, and Merrin is able to do with the major what he couldn't do with the SS officer - step forward and punch him out.

Was the soldier to blame, or the demon? We have previously seen the major ordering his men to stand to attention as a gesture of respect to the Africans, and the sergeant-major tells Merrin that the murder was completely out of character. Later an African tribesman spears most of the children in Father Francis' class, because he believes Christianity is the cause of the evil. "Is this how God treats those who love him?" hisses an African convert who lost a son in the massacre. "Yes," Merrin says. Presumably, despite the SS officer's reassurances, God was present in Holland, 1944, as well.

Although the finale comes complete with the kind of effects that made The Exorcist a reputation so far beyond its deserts - vomited insects, suppurating blisters and the like - the horror scenes are intelligently restrained and therefore all the more effective. Schrader keeps the focus firmly on the characters and their dilemmas, and avoids the sterile, simplistic conception of good and evil favoured by William Peter Blatty, William Friedkin, and Hollywood. "It's amazing what you're capable of when your physical survival is at stake," a young doctor says to Merrin. The doctor, Rachel (Clara Bellar) is a survivor of Chelmno concentration camp, and her experience of evil parallels Merrin's. Both of them have been forced to betray others to death; in Rachel's case to protect her life, in Merrin's case to protect (presumably) his immortal soul. When the demon is at his most powerful, he tempts both Rachel and Merrin with the chance to relive their worst moments, make different choices and, the voice of evil purrs, to gain "the freedom not to care".

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Acting Locally, Talking Globally

The Vicar of Downing Street's latest sermon in the Independent newspaper is designed to put us all right on climate change. Faced with the fact that Britain's carbon emissions have gone up rather than down during his tenure and despite considerable rhetoric, Tony recycles the standard excuse from post-Saddam Iraq; namely that if it weren't for Tony and his chums things would have been much worse: "emissions would have gone up by 8 per cent if it were not for the actions we have taken under our climate change programme."

But, even for Tony, his excuse "is no excuse." The Government is determined to "do all it can" to meet its target for 2010. But the Government cannot do all it can alone. "We need businesses and everybody, as consumers and passengers and drivers, to help achieve it too." I am not altogether sure what Tony means by this. If the Government changes the law to cut carbon emissions, then businesses, consumers, passengers and even drivers will fall into line. If not, things will continue as they are. I imagine things will continue as they are.

Tony next addresses an injustice. "Greenpeace have claimed that I have instructed airports to expand despite aviation being a major contributor to climate change." This is nonsense. Tony does not give instructions to airports. "Airport companies want to expand to meet the increasing demand from people to travel." It's a market thing. It would be unethical, immoral, impracticable, unwise and very naughty indeed if Tony were to intervene in any way whatever. "Globalisation is a result of the choices of individuals. Our responsibility is to try to reduce the downsides." If individuals choose to expand airports, there is nothing Tony or his chums can do about it. Tony believes that "emissions trading is the best way" because it "sets an absolute cap on emissions and encourages innovation". Capping emissions, encouraging innovation; a winning slogan if ever I saw one.

Encouraging innovation is something Tony sets a good deal of store by. The G8, under Tony's inspirational presidency, agreed to ensure that new, emission-reducing technologies shall be "brought out of the lab and put to use as soon as possible". I bet Greenpeace never thought of that. The US has announced "incentives for alternative fuel vehicles over the next 10 years" to the tune of slightly less than the cost of shaking and baking people in the Middle East. At the meeting in Montreal, which starts in ten days' time, Tony and his chums will begin "the formal discussion on how we can work together beyond 2012". This is certainly encouraging.

Those sour apples at Greenpeace have also claimed that Tony and his chums have failed to stop the growth in emissions from traffic. Tony is hurt: "we have just announced the renewable transport fuels obligation, which will mean that 5 per cent of petrol and diesel will be made from bio-fuels." A whole five per cent, just announced! Assuming the announcement is translated into action, "This will cut a million tons of carbon per annum from road transport emissions by 2010." In other words, since we are not yet in 2010, Tony and his chums have failed to stop the growth in emissions from traffic. This is called "acting locally."

But it is not enough to act locally, no matter how many businesses, passengers, drivers and consumers you inspire. We also need to think globally. Acting locally, thinking globally; a winning slogan if ever I saw one. "I could talk about nothing but the Kyoto protocol," Tony writes. "That way, maybe people would believe that I am still committed to it." Tony's ad-man faith in his powers of persuasion has never been more touching. Kyoto obliges him to cut carbon emissions; carbon emissions have risen on his watch; yet people don't believe he is committed to Kyoto. He could rectify this gross injustice by talking about nothing but Kyoto, but he chooses instead to enlighten us yet further about the realities of the world.

Even if all countries, including the world's largest polluter to whom Tony is helper and handmaiden, signed up to Kyoto and met their targets, "this would only stabilise emissions - not cut them, which we need to." I bet Greenpeace never thought of that. In order to cut emissions, we need to "agree internationally binding targets which all can sign up to" in good conscience and without slowing down their economic development. India, China and the US need this economic development so that they can "lift two billion people out of desperate poverty." So that's why the Americans refused to sign up to Kyoto - it wasn't enough to lift two billion people out of desperate poverty. This is certainly encouraging.

"We are acting," Tony declaims, "to cut carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. We will cut our emissions by 2012 by almost twice our Kyoto targets. And we have set an ambitious long-term target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050." Tony says it, so it must be true.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Those Who Fight Monsters...

The crank historian David Irving has been detained in Austria, happy home of Jörg Haider and Kurt Waldheim, under Austrian laws which criminalise Holocaust denial.

Anti-Nazi groups in the UK have congratulated the Austrian government, the chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust stating that he hoped Irving's arrest would "lead to a successful prosecution" which could result in a twenty-year jail sentence. The head of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust apparently said that Holocaust denial, unlike every other historiographic position, is "not a matter of opinion". Assuming the BBC has not reported his words out of context, a more succinct denial of the principle of free speech (viz. anti-fascism) can hardly be imagined.

"Austrian law demands incisive action to protect its citizens from a repeat of the past," he added. Quite how the suppression of noxious viewpoints is supposed to protect Austria from participating enthusiastically in another Anschluß and/or another Holocaust escapes me. It is no doubt repulsive and appalling that some people deny that the Holocaust took place, or try to minimise its effects; but such people's opinions are unlikely to be changed by forbidding their expression. I doubt if many people who were locked up by the Nazis ever came round to their opponents' point of view, either.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

News 2020

US leader hits back at future critics

The US Commander-in-Chief has launched a blistering pre-emptive attack on would-be critics who are thought to be about to claim that his handling of the conflicts in the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, California and on the Moon could be improved.

Criticism of the Commander-in-Chief is a "venal offense" under the Homeland Constitution, carrying a penalty of up to four years' imprisonment, or ten years if the charge is backed up with evidence.

"What bothers me is when people are irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics," the Commander-in-Chief told a meeting of the conservative Federal Institute for Freedom Opportunification and Fraternal Union of Mothers (FIFOFUM).

Would-be critics who looked as if they might be about to speak out risked peddling "the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired," the Commander-in-Chief said. "These people are nothing more than immature frat-boy types and shady businessmen driven by greed and paranoia."

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," he told an audience made up of homeland security troops and soldier-bearing resources.

The Commander-in-Chief's speech is being seen as a big-budget sequel to his Veterans' Day speech in Falluja, Louisiana, when he said that "baseless attacks" by a spiritual insurgency in the homeland could undermine US troops on their peace-packing missions abroad. "The American soldier can stand up to anything except people who oppose what he is being ordered to do," he said.

"The administration will stay the job until the course is done and sustain the response to those weak sisters who would not hesitate to reach critical mass if opportunified to retext historicity," the Commander-in-Chief said today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Muslims and Other Foreigners

The Home Secretary has ordered the extradition of a British man to a state which practises torture, imprisons people without trial and shows definite tendencies to authoritarianism, theocracy, military aggression and flagrant disregard for international law.

It isn't Libya; that was last month. The victim in that case was Libyan, not British, and Libya has signed a "memorandum of understanding" which prevents Tony's new chum, Colonel Gadafy, from doing anything nasty to people we deport there; so that was all right.

In the present case, the United States embassy has provided a "diplomatic note" saying that the deportee, Babar Ahmad, will not be executed if he is convicted. Of course he won't. And, of course, he won't be held in Guatánamo Bay as an "enemy combatant". Of course he won't. The Bush regime says he won't, so of course he won't.

Ahmad is a designated terror suspect, as opposed to a fully-paid-up Briton, because the US alleges that he used internet sites and email to raise money in support of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan. The British police arrested him in December 2003 but, doubtless because of the accursed less-than-ninety-days rule, had to release him without charge on an unsuspecting world. He was re-arrested in August 2004 because that was what the US wanted. Makes you proud.

Elsewhere, the former head of MI5 has offered qualified support for the Home Secretary's identity card scheme, which Tony has been selling, for indefinite and ever-rising amounts of public money, as the weapon of mass destruction that will bring the the wars on crime, terror, benefit claimants, terror, asylum seekers, terror, hooded people, terror etc. within measurable distance of their end.

Dame Stella Rimington said that the cards would be of use if they could be made impossible to forge. I'm sure the Home Secretary will take this on board. "If we had ID cards at great expense and people can go into back rooms and forge them," Dame Stella added, "they will not make us any safer." Military Intelligence in Britain is occasionally the province of the brightest and the best, I am told.

Dame Stella also informed her audience of the reason why "all foreigners, particularly Muslims" would not be treated as potential terrorists by the intelligence services. "For one thing, she said, there simply were not enough resources to take such an approach." Makes you proud.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

News 2020

PM slams "armchair humanitarians"

White House officials have branded as "nonsensical" accusations that forces of the Special Executive Iraq Zone United Response Enterprise (SEIZURE) have used nuclear weapons in Persian-occupied Iran.

The use of nuclear weapons against civilians is thought to be considered illegal under some of the various non-proliferation treaties to parts of which the US is almost a signatory.

Coalition forces detonated a small plutonium device over Tehran, destroying several hundred thousand terrorist spider holes which would have taken weeks to clear with conventional weapons in an operation that could have cost as many as dozens of Allied lives, officials said today.

General Claiborne P Minuteman, Commander-under-God of the SEIZURE forces in the liberation of Iran, has admitted that civilian casualties may have been sustained.

But he insisted that the device had been used "in concordance with the rules of engagement", as a "purely illuminative measure".

The light emitted by the device, which was several times brighter than the sun, enabled Allied forces to pinpoint the location of the city from several miles' distance in all directions, despite the darkness of the alien Arabic night, General Minuteman said.

The destruction of much of the city and the possible death of some civilians from exposure to high temperatures or mobilised urban matter was "an unfortunate side effect," he admitted.

But the General maintained that the operation, codenamed Light of Truth, was the quickest and most humane way of shaking and baking the city to flush out the bowel cancer of terror and prevent aggravated creeparound of the trapdoor spider of suicide bombing.

The British Prime Minister was also quick to deny that US military actions forbidden under international law were necessarily war crimes, and said that claims of massive unwellness from radioactivity among the civilian population were the work of "self-righteous fifth columnists".

"Some of these armchair humanitarians are rather quick to forget that if it weren't for radiation we wouldn't have X-rays or the BBC," he said.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Planetary Spin

The Vicar of Downing Street, who has done so much for multilateralism by helping to unite most of the globe against Bush's America and Bush's Blair's Britain, has been accused of "undermining international efforts to tackle climate change".

Apparently a group of environmentalists claim that the Prime Minister's actions on the environment do not match his rhetoric. This is, of course, a considerable shock.

"Despite the huge difference in historic rhetoric on the key issues of climate change and the control of hazardous chemicals, the actual negotiating position of the Prime Minister becomes daily less discernible from that of George Bush," the environmentalists' leader calumnified. This is, of course, even more of a shock. The idea that the Prime Minister's position has ever been discernible from that of George Bush is a new one on me.

"It is becoming clear," the slander continued, "that all the talking up has been aimed more at trying to please environmentally concerned voters and green organisations than demonstrating the will to actually use leadership in tough negotiations." In other words, New Labour - the party of Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, and the 9/11 Bad News Burial Tactic - is accused of being more concerned with public relations than with a sane environmental policy. Well, of all the cheek.

The Government's chief scientific adviser has given his scientific opinion that the environmentalists are being "grossly unfair", and that Bush's Blair's Britain's presidency of the G8 has achieved an "enormous amount". Almost a quarter of the states in the US have expressed a wish to engage in emissions trading, and the G8 has issued a statement saying they will act "with resolve and urgency now to meet our objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions." These are certainly enormous achievements. If there is one thing we need in the wake of all those hurricanes, it is more hot air about our good intentions.

The Government's chief scientific adviser also gave his scientific opinion that Tony and his chums can save the planet without adverse impact upon growing economies. "I don't think that any country is going to manage a process where the suspicion is that they will need to reduce their GDP growth," he said. So despite limited resources on a finite planet, our economies will keep growing indefinitely because no country is going to tackle climate change otherwise. Well, that's a comfort.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

News 2020

New measures to exterminate culture of violence

School bullies could face harsh new penalties under a new package of Government packages announced today, the Government announced.

The Minister for Human Resource Maturation, Blearie Haze, said that British schools were suffering from a "culture of violence" which had to be stamped out of existence if civilisation were to survive.

"Accordingly, next year the Government will introduce legislation to deter bullying from taking place and to utterly punish those who do with dynamic punitivity," Ms Haze continued.

Under the new laws, children who bully other children will be subject to a scale of punishments ranging from electronic tagging to solitary confinement, physical restraint and sleep deprivation.

The Government's opening of a new front in the war on childishness will be seen as a response to several incidences of violence among schoolchildren, some of which have made headlines in the tabloids.

Ms Haze said that parents, teachers, television, computer games, toys, local authorities and the last seventy years of education reforms were all to blame for the epidemic of bullying, which has resulted in fourteen extrajudicial juvenile executions in the last quarter of this year alone.

Only the Government, the police and the armed forces were innocent of blame for the situation, she said.

However, Ms Haze also said that the statistical increases were deceptive, as they included figures from the new Little Jobbies work preparation outlets for human resources aged three months or less.

The shadow minister for human resources, Davina Davies-Davidson, condemned the proposals. "It is ridiculous to talk of deterrence or punishment where no physical threat is involved," she said.

The NuConLib Alliance's manifesto proposals allowing schools to subcontract paid prefects with authority to inflict "minor but salutary physical damage" would ensure "a rapid statistical detumescence in bullying figures," Ms Davies-Davidson said.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Remember, remember the twelfth of November

Face-Powder, Treason and Pomp

The Reverend Blair and his rubber stamp have attended a Festival of Remembrance to pay tribute to those killed because they were told they were fighting for their country.

Hundreds of ex-servicemen and women packed London's Royal Albert Hall for the annual service.

Tony Blair, who has sent people to die for his conception of their country on several occasions, and who has sent people to help the natives die for their country on several more, was one of the first dignitaries to arrive for the event. His wife was dressed so compassionately that the Press Association thought it worth reporting.

They were followed by several senior Royals, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. This was the first time the Duchess has accompanied the Prince to this event, which is something else the Press Association found newsworthy, perhaps because of what the Duchess was wearing.

The last of the dignitaries to arrive were the rubber stamp and her consort. The rubber stamp was also dressed in a newsworthy fashion.

After the service of remembrance, a two-minute silence "was being observed", according to the professional writers at the Press Association, in honour of the war dead.

Thousands of blood red poppy petals, paid for by a leading arms manufacturer, were to fall from the great dome at the end of the evening to represent all those who have died in combat over the years, including presumably the Waffen-SS and their famously effective interrogation units.

According to the professional writers at the Press Association, the event mixes entertainment of military bands with solemn reflection. It is to be hoped that the military bands had a jolly time.

Among those taking part was Private Johnson Beharry, who received the Victoria Cross for heroism in Iraq, where Private Beharry's country is even now being defended.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Our Glorious Dead

Thrifty Dialogue for Penny-Pinchers

Good day, sir.

Good day.

And a merry Christmas. Only forty shopping days left, sir.

Good day.

Would you care to purchase a poppy, sir?

A what?

A poppy, sir. A token of remembrance for the fallen and a means of support for their dependents.

A poppy?

Yes, sir. Assembled by crippled veterans from all Britain's most honourable campaigns.

These assemblages of paper and plastic are assembled by veterans?

Indeed, sir.

And the veterans are paid for this work?

Indeed they are, sir.

By whom?

By the Royal British Legion, sir. I founded it myself, after the Great War to End War, as a precautionary provision for future contingencies.

You wanted something other than Third Ypres on your tombstone, I take it.

We won in the end. That is what these poppies commemorate. Would you care to purchase one, sir?

If the veterans can assemble these things, can they not assemble something more useful? Munitions, perhaps?

The manufacture of munitions has become increasingly automated.

Then can you not also automate the manufacture of poppies, and save the trouble and expense of paying cripples to do inefficiently what a machine can do better?

But what of their dependents?

Is there no life insurance?

Indeed there is, sir.

Are there no pension plans?

Most certainly.

Then let the brave defenders of our glorious way of life avail themselves of these advantages before they go abroad, and should misfortune occur all will still be well with them.

Do you not think they deserve better - a home for heroes to live in?

There is nothing heroic about merely doing what one is told. Surely the words of Nelson have not been forgotten - England expects that every man will do his duty. I do not recall that the Admiral promised anyone an improvement in living accommodation, yet Boney was duly beaten. Even during that monument to civilisation, the Great War to End War, the refusal to do as one was told was considered cowardly and even treasonous. Surely there is nothing heroic about merely failing to commit treason.

But the sacrifices were immense. I myself had to put up with the authority of Sir John French for an endless period of months before I succeeded in outflanking and defeating him.

You seem to bear your combat injuries lightly enough.

I am British, sir.

And so am I. I practise thrift and hard work, and I advise all your crippled veterans, and their dependents with them, to practise the same, rather than attempting to live on a charitable dole like so many single mothers. Have they no sense of dignity at all?

Indeed they do, sir. Many of them show their dignity to great advantage in the various photographic advertisements which the Royal British Legion has emplaced about the city.

So you have sufficient money for advertisements, but in order to support your crippled heroes you must needs pester me?

Even a charity must cover its incidental expenses, sir.

Good day.

Won't you purchase a poppy, sir?

Good day.

Think of the children, sir.

Good day.

And remember to observe two minutes' silence at eleven o'clock, sir. It reminds everybody who won, in case they've forgotten, and it does the widows and orphans a power of good. If you could see their honest faces -

Good day.

Good day, sir.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

News 2020

Sun to sue terror attack involvee

The Sun newspaper is considering bringing a lawsuit against a man who appeared on its front page under what the tabloid claims are false pretences.

The man, who cannot be named until his citizenry profile has been checked by the forces of law and order and anti-terrorism and anti-fraud and identity verification and immigration control and TV license monitoring, was involved in a recent terrorist attack.

Although the man's status is now being questioned, he was originally considered a victim of the terror attack, which is thought to have been the work of terrorists.

The man's health care was privately insured, so he was one of the first to be taken out of the stricken Underground carriage in which the terrorist terror attack occurred.

As he emerged from the station, Sun photographer Trev Noblett took his picture, which later appeared on the newspaper's front page. The image of the injured and blood-soaked man being asked "How do you feel?" by a BBC reporter became known as an iconic moment in the tragic history of the terrorist attack terror.

"This photograph epitomises everything the British media are proud of," said media expert Bradley Ichneumon at the time. "It has drama, it has colour, it has human interest, it has Britishness. It has 'uniquely British' written all over it, and in the most eloquent of international languages - blood."

The later revelation that the man in the photograph was Australian was reported by the Sun in its inside pages.

Now the tabloid is saying that the man has brought its reportage into disrepute by making pro-terroristic statements and criticising the Government's handling of the terror crisis caused by the terrorists' terror attack terror.

The man has blamed Government policy for acts of terrorist terror, and has called the terrorists "victims", a Sun editorial said today.

"Terrorists are not victims. And neither is he," the editorial continued, utilising capital letters. "His blood-soaked face is not a badge of British courage but a mark of Cain. And should be treated that way."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Revolt of the Mud-Gulpers

It appears that, having put up with eight years of grinning self-righteousness and three years of soul-kissing George W Bush, the Parliamentary Labour Party has belatedly developed a backbone. It may be too much to hope that there are many land animals in their number, but at least forty-nine of them seem to have evolved beyond the wriggling stage.

Although the Reverend Blair's direct-from-the-blue proposal for three-month internment without trial has been thrown out, the House of Commons has still allowed an increase in the maximum period from fourteen days to twenty-eight. How this will help in stopping terrorists blow us up (I take it as read that protecting non-terrorists from instant, utter cranial destruction was not even on the agenda) remains unclear.

A spokescreature for the Vicar of Downing Street said that the Terrorism Bill was "a one-off issue" on which "there has traditionally been a tension in parliament between those who, on the one hand, believe you have to do everything to protect the country's security, and, on the other hand, those who wish to protect civil liberties as they see it." Civil liberties, you see, are a matter of individual perception, quite unlike the problem of how to secure the country.

"You and your colleagues are going to have to make your decision today," the Reverend informed Michael Howard, and went on with his characteristic combination of humility and intellectual honesty: "We have made ours. We believe this is right for our country. We believe it is necessary to protect our country from terrorism and I'm only sorry you don't agree."

The problem of security was settled, as far as the Reverend was concerned, when "the police and those charged with fighting terrorism said the 90-day power was needed to make the country safe". I seem to recall a time, only a few tens of thousands of deaths ago, when an invasion of Iraq was needed to make the country safe. We're going to replace Trident at vast cost, too, just to make the country safe. Safe for the right people, of course.

The Reverend apparently "left the chamber shaking his head", doubtless mindful of the pronouncement of his personal friend and mentor concerning the honour of a prophet in his own country and his own House. The Vicar of Downing Street's Thought for the Day is that "Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing." Only sometimes, of course.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

News 2020

Modified organism not a weapon, says US

The US Commander-in-Chief has condemned "with maximal strengthification" the allegations of an Italian film crew that American peacekeeping forces used a "biological weapon" during recent cancer excision manoeuvres in Iraq.

The alleged use of the alleged weapon is alleged to have taken place during Operation Avuncular Advisement, when almost 25,000 insurgents, including 17,529 prominent al-Qaeda lieutenants, were made safe for democracy.

"In the first place, it wasn't a biological weapon; in the second place, it wouldn't have been illegal if it was; and in the third place, even if it was illegal America does what's right," said the Commander-in-Chief.

Speaking from the White House press bunker, the Commander-in-Chief said that use of the genetically modified bubonic plague bacillus alleged by the Italian film crew would have been "entirely permissifiable under US patent laws."

The modifications to the organism, designed to make it more humane and to streamline its market potential, meant that it was no longer strictly biological, but rather "a product of American engineering," the Commander-in-Chief said.

He then told appreciative reporters a joke about an Italian tank with one forward gear and "a severality" of reverse gears.

The British Prime Minister condemned the film crew, which was made up solely of Italians, for "abuse of free speech" and mentioned the historical fact of Italy's changing sides during the First World War.

"I think all British persons will know what Winston Churchill, one of the world's greatest Britons and a personal hero to British people like myself, would have thought about that," he said.

Britain and the British people would "stand shoulder to shoulder with the American eagle until the locust of terrorism has been utterly disembowelled by the dove of peace," the Prime Minister said.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Anthropomorphism,n. Assumption that animals kill one another from sadism rather than hunger.

Cohabitation,n. Mutual intrusion in return for help with the rent.

Depraved,adj. Blatantly and brazenly lacking in those neurotic inhibitions which you have been pleased to embrace instead of something warmer.

Introgulate,v.i. To converse entirely, and thus usually unprofitably, in questions.
"My psychiatrist always answers questions with questions. I don't know where these constant introgulations are supposed to get us."
Pniggley Stropster

Money,n. The root of all evil; hence the priestly stipend and the Sunday collection plate.

Newspaper,n. A bundle of lies and irrelevances interspersed with exaggerations and half-truths. The half-truths are no fault of the reporters or editors, and are present solely because of the rigorous standards of veracity which the law imposes on advertisers.

Obeisance,n. The act of grovelling in a manner consistent with one's personal dignity and sense of moral uprightness.

Personal,adj. The motivation for most non-military murders. Military murders are done for money, which is a motive both impersonal and honourable.

Relationship,n. The period of time it takes to realise that your partner's definition of relationship is more than tolerably inferior to your own.

Spiritual,adj. Descriptive of any emotional experience sanctified by faith and made piquant by megalomania.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

News 2020

Sonic booms harmless, say Israelis

The Israeli defence ministry today angrily rejected claims that flights over the Palestinian camps were "provocative" to terrorists.

The Israeli air force has continued its aerobatic displays over the Palestinian megacamps for the third week in succession, according to reports from journalists in a Tel Aviv hotel.

US-made jets flew low over Camp Sharon, Camp Ben-Gurion and Camp Meir, the reservations in the so-called Gaza Strip where non-native subjects of Israel are housed as long as they refuse to leave.

The aerial displays follow last month's terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, when a suicide bomber killed seven people.

The suicide bomber did not make himself available for interview, but he is thought by experts to have been motivated by a fanatical Islamic cult of deathly evil.

After the bombing, Israeli aircraft carried out retaliatory raids on militant households and their collateral surroundings, killing 17 militants and four potential stone-throwers.

The aerial displays, by contrast, were not retaliatory and were intended "in a purely educative sense," according to the Israeli defence ministry.

Claims by militant groups that the noise from the flights was harming "innocent people" were firmly rejected, although defence spokespersons admitted that the aircraft would be flying low enough to break windows if the Palestinians were permitted such things.

The use of glass was outlawed in the megacamps when Palestinian youths discovered that the substance had potentially sharp edges. Windows were outlawed shortly afterwards as being potential openings for violent behaviour against Israeli tanks.

"The idea that Jewish sonic booms could cause harm to innocent people is nonsense," a spokesperson said. "The claim by certain terrorist groups that these flights are a form of state terrorism is a disgraceful slur on the Jewish people and should be treated as the Nazi war criminals were treated. We do not terrorise innocent people. We're just trying to frighten them a little, that's all."

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Burning Ambition

Terrorism Non-Glorifying Dialogue for Stuffed Suit and Effigy

Penny for the guy?

Sorry sonny, not today.

Trick or treat?

Not now.

Penny for the guy?

I don't think so, son.

Trick or treat?

What's the trick?

A new Terrorism Act.

What's the treat?

A three-line whip.

Well, Rebekah was just here. I don't think I'll bother.

Penny for the guy?

Is this going to go on all night?

Argh! Who said that?

I did. The one you've been pushing around all evening.

I never push anyone around. I'm the Home Secretary.

Well, I'm sitting in this pram, and you're pushing the pram around.

Well, I'm not pushing you, then, am I?

You are - and pushing me dirt cheap too, by the sound. "Penny for the guy", indeed.

During the last eight years of Labour government, inflation has -

Put a sock in it, do.

You can't talk to me like that.

Of course I can. I just did. I've even got a sock, somewhere -

You're just an old suit stuffed with garbage.

Precisely. That's why we can communicate so well. We're practically brothers, except that your ears stick out more.

They do not.

Yes they do.

You're a terrorist.

I'm nothing of the sort.

I assure you it is a matter of compelling factuality that you are. You're a Catholic religious fanatic and regicide bomber who tried to destroy the Houses of Parliament four hundred years ago. I'm trying to flog an Act at the moment that will stop people just like you, except that they're suicide bombers and not Catholic and only potential terrorists, just in case.

No I'm not.


I'm an old suit stuffed with garbage. You said so yourself. I'm the effigy of an historical figure. A shoddily thrown together representation of the human form, which is another reason why we can communicate so well.

I wish you'd stop saying that.

Can't help it. As long as you say I'm a terrorist, my right to silence is long gone.

And rightly too. The police should have the power to protect innocent people and keep our democracy safe from the depredations of those who would inflict their evil ideology on the democratic innocence of our people and police. Penny for the guy!

I'll give you a penny if you promise not to do anything naughty with it.

All right. (Takes penny and throws it in the pram)


Shut up!

I still don't understand why you're pushing me - I mean, pushing this pram around with me in it.

That's so I can collect pennies and then burn you in effigy as a beacon of historicity and an example to all terrorists everywhere.

Don't be silly. How can you burn an effigy in effigy? You're confusing the representation of an historical figure with the man himself.


That's me.

Which is precisely why you must be burned. We are confronting extremists whose aims are to kill and maim as many people as possible, to strike at the heart of our society and destroy what we stand for. These terrorists are part of complex international organisations that make ever greater use of new technology such as encrypted computers. Further attacks remain a real possibility, so action to protect our citizens is urgent. The Government has introduced the Terrorism Bill, currently going through Parliament, to try and ensure that the police and intelligence services have the powers they need to stay ahead of the new breed of terrorist. Yet some are opposing the Government's proposals, which come on the advice of specialist anti-terrorist police. Penny for the guy!

Piss off.

You can keep your fucking pennies, Mr Liberal Home Secretary 1992... (Blows raspberry)

So what do you need the pennies for?

Well, the new police powers will be quite extensive. We're going to need an identity card scheme to keep track of all the arrests and detentions and burnings, so I'm saving up.

Sorry, can we back up a bit. Why exactly must I be burned?

And before you are burned you must be hanged, then while still alive you must be taken down and your entrails removed and burned before your eyes. Then you must be chopped into four pieces, with a safety-conscious non-flammable firework display while the children gouge out a strictly limited quota of eyes with their little sparklers. Where do you think you're going?

(Fawkes off)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Protecting Our Democracy

The Vicar of Downing Street seems to have entered martyrdom mode. His reaction to the rebellion over his plans to allow the police to hold people for three months without charge was to inform the Cabinet that "Times are tough but they are tough because the Government is trying to do the right thing." Well, that settles that.

The Invertebrate for the Interior, Cardes Clarke, obligingly joined in the chorus that the case for ninety-day internment was still "compelling". The case is compelling because the police have made it and Tony believes it. Whether, in the final crusade, the compulsion will be physical, psychological or merely moral is presumably still an open question.

Aiming as always for precision, consistency and loyalty to Tony, though not necessarily in that order, Mr Clarke had previously offered all-party talks on the rebels' suggestion of a twenty-eight-day limit. That's how compelling it was. It appears Mr Clarke is prepared to compromise unless he has to compromise.

Tony, on the other hand, will never, never compromise. "Nobody should be in any doubt about what I think," the Prime Minister has proclaimed. Personally, I have no doubts whatever about the what; though I confess that the whether sometimes troubles me. "A compromise isn't in the interests of this country," as defined by the Blair who lied us into Iraq and the Blair who lied about the Stockwell shooting. This is certainly compelling.

The Prime Minister also challenged opponents of the Terrorism Bill to "justify denying the police the powers they want". I trust this does not constitute an invitation to glorify terrorism. The Invertebrate for the Interior, Charles Carde, obligingly joined in the chorus by urging MPs to consult their local police about the issue. "I thought it was important that MPs talked to their constituents over the weekend - go into their communities, go and talk to the police in their localities, and form a view," he said.

Apparently Wednesday's rebellion was carried out by people who do not have a view. I certainly hope they form the correct view once they have talked to the police. If there is one thing that matters above all in a modern democracy, it is finding out what the police think about police powers, and then doing as they tell you.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

At Least She Isn't a Gipsy

Redhead Rebekah Wade has been released to terrorise the community after an alleged assault on her soap-star husband.

Passionate Rebekah, 37, is understood to have met saucy ex-minister David Blunkett last night after his resignation.

The couple's commiserations seem to have led to domestic troubles. Rebekah returned home some time before 4:00am and split her husband's lip.

Rebekah is known for her hard-hitting style. As editor of the News of the World she raised sales and eyebrows with a policy of "naming and shaming" convicted paedophiles.

The campaign was only stopped because some paediatricians were too polysyllabic for the moral force of sexy Rebekah's readers.

As editor of The Sun, the wavy-tressed stunna has overseen a campaign for action against domestic violence, but she is thought to be fairly tolerant of hypocrisy.

Although she originally worked in France, Rebekah lives in Battersea, south London, where residents are thought to be wondering why the government does not do more to control violent evildoers.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

News 2020

Nation united in grief and resolution

The nation was united in mourning today as a ceremony of remembrance was held for the victims of the last three terrorist bombs to terrorise terrorised Londoners with terroristic terror.

The two Provisional Archbishops of Canterbury gave simultaneous sermons of equivalent length and volume to a packed audience in the newly consecrated Murdoch wing of Westminster Abbey.

Many members of both congregations were wearing poppies, in memory of the members of Britain's armed forces who have been killed defending the free market in Afghanistan.

Dr Lionel Marmaduke Lilliwhyte told the liberal congregation that God loved victims of terrorism and that friends and relatives might indulge their grief without undue offence to Christian morality.

In any case, Dr Lilliwhyte said, the whole British nation was united in grief and resolution.

The Reverend Jebediah Icke told the evangelical congregation that the victims were sitting on Jesus' right hand and that God would help the forces of freedom strike down the forces of evil, terrorism and homosexuality.

In any case, said the Reverend Icke, the whole British nation was united in grief and resolution.

The lesson was read by the Prime Minister, who said afterwards that the ceremony showed that the British nation was united in grief and resolution.

Almost a million people in Britain are members of the Church of England, including nearly a thousand people under fifty and the Prime Minister.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Testing for Britishness

As my more tolerant readers may be aware, I have had occasion recently to suffer one or two qualms about the state of my Britishness. Until Michael Howard enlightened me, I had always thought of Britishness as being a rather incidental and amorphous quality, no more a source of pride than the colour of my eyes, the size of my feet or the fact that I share an island with Michael Howard.

In fact, I am still not terribly clear about why I should feel pride in a geo-gynaecological accident; but now, thanks to the new, radical, firm-but-multicultural Home Office test I am at last able to gain some idea of just how British I am; or at least, how British I deserve to be. The Home Office has published four practice questions with multiple-choice answers, so that people can practise being British before doing the test. The Home Office also lists a number of further topics which will also be covered in the questions.

Although the multiple choices for these topics are not yet available, I have decided to take on the challenge, in the sincere belief that Britishness means being good at exams. In the great British tradition of individual freedom, I shall answer only those questions which I wish to answer. I would be most obliged for your opinion as to the extent of my Britishness, and your advice as to any means by which I might seek to maximalise it further.

Do women have equal rights and has this always been the case?
In theory, yes and no. In practice, no and yes.

When do children take tests at school? How many go on to higher education?
The answers to both these questions depend upon the ramifications of the latest radical reform of the education system, and therefore vary from month to month, according to the whims of Tony and the tabloids.

What are the minimum ages for buying alcohol and tobacco? What drugs are illegal?
Age eighteen, I suppose. Illegal drugs include heroin, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and tobacco some of the time and in certain places. Carbon monoxide and war propaganda, on the other hand, are not only legal but compulsory.

How interested are young people in politics? What do they see as the main issues today?
I neither know nor care.

Where are geordie, cockney and scouse dialects spoken?

Do people tend to live in the cities or in the country?
That tends to depend on whether their accommodation is urban or rural.

What and when are the national days of the four countries of the UK? What are bank holidays?
This is a trick question. The UK does not consist of four countries. It consists of three countries and one colony. Bank holidays are single-day holidays scattered through the year to commemorate the wonders of banking. For example, the first of May, which used to have unhealthy socialist connotations, is now the May bank holiday.

What and when are the main Christian festivals? What other traditional days are celebrated?
The main Christian festivals are Easter, which is a moveable feast, and Christmas, which runs from 30 September to 2 January. What other traditional days are celebrated depends upon what tradition the celebrant belongs to.

What are MPs? How often are elections held and who forms the government?
MPs are Members of Parliament. Elections are held about every four years according to how the government of the day judges the whims of the tabloids. The government is formed by the party with the most seats in the House of Commons, no matter how few votes it may have gained.

What type of constitution does the UK have?
A very convenient one for the right sort of people.