The Curmudgeon

YOU'LL COME FOR THE CURSES. YOU'LL STAY FOR THE MUDGEONRY.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where there is Tony, let us bring...

As Thatcher quoted St Francis, so Cameron quotes Gandhi; the Tories, he informs us, "must be the change [they] want to see in the world". This means that, from now on, every single member and supporter of the Conservative party must remember that, as with suicide bombers, "personal commitment is the most powerful way to bring about change".

In his New Year message to the disciples, which the Press Association tactfully describes as "optimistic", David Cameron assured them that his leadership has made it "an exciting time to be a Conservative", and that the party could "look forward to 2006 confident in our values, clear about our direction, and optimistic about the future". One wonders, in that case, why change should be necessary at all.

The reason, of course, is that by improving themselves they will improve others: "I want us to usher in a new type of politics in this country." On the other hand, "As the world is changing, so must we." The Conservatives will be able to usher in a new era of politics just as soon as the Conservatives are exactly like everyone else.

Inflexibility is not one of David Cameron's vices. The new type of politics David Cameron wants to usher in will be "constructive, thoughtful and open-minded". Nevertheless, thanks to the inspiration of David Cameron, the Conservatives are "becoming a party which is more like modern Britain, and which likes modern Britain more". Modern Britain is led by Tony Blair.

Friday, December 30, 2005

News 2020

Vocalisation deregulation proposal potential confirmed

The Prime Minister will open a new front in the war on disrespect next month with the announcement of an aggressive campaign to clean up the British language.

"The British language has for too long been debased by improper utilisation and the chronic incivilitude of a sixties-influenced mentality of moral laxity," said culture minister Victoria Beckham.

"It is absurd that the country which originated literary solutions such as Shakespeare, Milton, Joyce and Jeffrey Archer should be forced to put up with less than the best possible linguistic resources," she continued.

Following on from the up-freeing and streamlining of internet space, the Prime Minister is expected to announce a radical package of deregulation for spoken conversations in an effort to enhance the altitudification of the country's vocalisation standards.

"If the Government has the guts to stay the course and see it through, this has the potential to be a very encouraging development," said media expert Bradley Ichneumon.

"The successful deregulation of internet and email facilities resulted in the almost total elimination of material which could conceivably cause offence to anyone," continued Dr Ichneumon.

"Prevention of inappropriate vocalisation between human resources would seem to be the next step on the ladder to properly managed free speech."

The soon-to-be-packaged package of measures is thought to be potentially inclusive of numerous measures of considerable radicality and tough new powers of community building mechanisms for renewal of global potential for helping responsibility towards freedom of market for adaptation to the dynamicity of the Prime Minister's vision of the new rules of the game.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Granulated Human Organs

Congratulations on your purchase of BodyCon's all-new maximal convenience bladder granules. This package contains four sachets for easy and convenient domestic organ replacement. Utilised according to instructions, BodyCon's all-new maximal convenience bladder granules will bring you many days of happy and practically pain-free anatomical function.

Important. This is not a gall bladder.

Instructions

Place contents of one sachet in a sterilised metal dish or other shallow container.

Add very hot (not boiling) water and stir gently until bladder is fully formed.

Make incision in lower abdomen and remove previous bladder. It is essential to remove all traces of previous bladder before inserting the new organ. Failure to do so may result in non-refundable malfunction and considerable clearing up.

Ensure that new bladder is fully formed, with correctly mounted ureter and unblocked urethral orifice.

Place bladder into incision and rest on pelvic floor with pubic symphysis on bladder's anterior border. Connect urethra at lowest point of trigone. Do not use a stapler.

Once bladder is in place, BodyCon can accept no responsibility for any adverse consequences suffered by the customer as a result of failing to follow instructions correctly. Always ensure that bladder is properly constituted and emplaced before securing.

When bladder is in place, close incision and wait at least four hours before utilising the organ.

If you have enjoyed this BodyCon product, why not try our forthcoming range of granulated human organs and systems, soon to include liver, pancreas, duodenum, gall bladder and brain lobes. Use BodyCon for your anatomical convenience. Simple, healthy and oh, so you.

Contains genuine transitional epithelium (6%), cystitis resistor P155, artificial colouring and British Safety Approved (code BS 147632907/C) detrusor enhancers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Showing the Red Light

Apparently the Vicar of Downing Street wishes to help the harlots and publicans precede him into the Kingdom. "I'm not tolerant of the view that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world and there's nothing we can do to reduce it," said the Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart.

Ministers, we are told, "want better access for women to health checks, drug treatment and housing and to make them safer from violent attacks;" but the colleagues of David Cameron's new speechwriter and other voices of the people are unlikely to tolerate for very long the idea of taxpayers' money being pumped into the support of women of ill repute. "The police are expected to be encouraged to set up safe houses and other schemes to help the women involved get out of the trade." The Home Office has no authority to do more than encourage, it seems - at least when it comes to helping rather than punishing.

Mactaggart told the Guardian newspaper that "it was wrong to regard those involved in prostitution as sex workers". Wrong, doubtless, in the sense of immoral as well as that of incorrect. Since there is little doubt that prostitutes are involved with sex, it must be the word workers that causes the problem. Prostitutes cannot be workers, because sex for pay, unlike every other activity done for pay, is not work. "Prostitution blights communities," so it cannot be work. Work - real work - is praiseworthy, desirable and profiteth one and all. A cabinet minister or other advertising executive is a worker. A prostitute is merely a blight.

The reason for this is simple. Prostitution equals vice equals drug trafficking: "The Home Office estimates 80,000 people are involved in the vice trade and 95% of those working on the streets are using heroin or crack." Therefore, "Men who choose to use prostitutes are indirectly supporting drug dealers and abusers." Well, men, women and children who choose to wear certain brands of clothing are indirectly supporting slave labour, but I am not aware that the Home Office plans to outlaw designer labelling.

It seems a little paradoxical that the party which has sold itself to Rupert Murdoch and its country to the Project for a New American Century has suddenly developed a "zero tolerance" itch to cleanse the streets of a particular type of commercial transaction. Tough measures are needed to tackle the markets for prostitution, it appears. It isn't often that New Labour decides to get tough on a market, but in this one it has picked a worthy adversary. Rather than pander to mere modernity by overhauling the country's half-century-old prostitution laws, the male sex instinct and the female business instinct are to be amputated forthwith and laid chastely upon the altar of post-Blunkett moralism. Anticipating the May elections, in which Labour can presumably expect another pounding, the minions of St Anthony have discovered a new abstract noun on which to wage yet another Murdoch-propitiating war.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

And Finally

Monday, December 26, 2005

Seasonal Retrospectacular

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Another Chance to See

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Repeats, Repeats, Repeats

Friday, December 23, 2005

Deliver Us From E-Cards

I am in receipt of a Christmas e-card from Matt Carter, General Secretary of Blair Enterprises plc. Its title, "What did Rudolf say to the snowman?" seems to give a fair indication of Matt Carter's estimation of intellectual levels among New Labour activists. Matt Carter "runs the machine built by Peter Mandelson, among others, to put the unions in their place and win elections".

The e-card itself consists of a picture of a parcel-laden sleigh against a dark blue backdrop splotched with outsized snowflakes. Most of the snowflakes are about the same size as the parcels, which presumably is not intended to tell us anything about either the magnitude of New Labour's beneficence or the effects on the weather of New Labour's lack of an effective environmental policy. Matt Carter once spoke at a conference to reassure activists against perceptions of "politicians failing to deliver . . . and all somehow in it for themselves."

Five of the parcels are labelled with "Minimum Wage" and "Sure Start" and "Low Inflation" and "Debt Relief" and "More Police". These are five nice things which New Labour has achieved for Britain. Two more of the parcels also have labels, but the labels are not readable. Perhaps they contain nice surprises for the police and the CBI.

Curiously, none of the parcels is labelled "Terrorism Reduced" or "Wage Gap Narrowed" or "NHS Saved" or "No Top-up Fees" or "Education Improved" or "International Law Upheld" or "Less Pollution" or "Better Public Transport" or "Mass Destruction Averted" or, indeed, anything else that might have given Labour activists a pleasant Christmas surprise. On the other hand, Matt Carter does supply a witty punchline. The question, as you may recall, was "What did Rudolf say to the snowman?" The witty reply is, "It's not just Santa that delivers!" The witty exclamation mark is in the original. Matt Carter is a witty Doctor of Philosophy.

The sleigh has no driver, not even George W Bush, and appears to be in free-fall. One might think the same of Matt Carter's sense of humour, except for the note beneath the picture: "Thank you for helping to re-elect a Labour Government in 2005. Please give generously today, so we can continue to deliver for Britain in 2006."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

News 2020

Judge rules against teaching of intelligent design

A Texas judge has ruled unconstitutional the teaching of "intelligent design" to students of recent American history.

The case arose when residents of the town of Long Haul, TX sued the local Authority for the Betterment of Youthful Socialisation and Mentation after it voted to make intelligent design a compulsory feature of history courses.

The plaintiffs contended that the teaching of the history of the war for Arab liberation earlier this century would be fatally compromised by the inclusion of arguments based on intelligent design.

In particular, the role of private corporations such as reconstruction agency Hallibechtel Humanitarian Enterprises and civilian security firm Blackbox 911 would be "prejudicially recurricularised", the plaintiffs claimed.

The defence claim that "market forces" could not alone explain the awarding of so many contracts to the upright and deserving was ruled unproveable by Judge Golliper Knook in what is being seen as a landmark judgement.

In summing up, Judge Knook criticised the ABYSM for failing to think its position through. "If we say, without sufficient historical evidence, that certain phenomena are caused by intelligent design, then the teaching of history becomes a farce," he said.

"If we accept intelligent design for the question of Hallibechtel contracts, then who knows - next we might be asked to accept that millions of people die of malnutrition every so often because of some human agency, rather than because, thanks to market forces, stuff happens now and then," the judge concluded.

"The idea that there was some kind of deliberative intelligence behind the awarding of those contracts is a plain violation of everything the Homeland Constitution stands for," said plaintiff-oriented spokesperson Chuckster Hasselhoff.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Confidence Man

David Cameron is stealing his cassock, but the Vicar of Downing Street is putting a plucky face on things. He faces "tough times", he admits, but nevertheless he feels a "tremendous sense of confidence" that everything will be all right, at least for the Vicar of Downing Street.

"In the end political leadership is about making the decisions that are right for the country," he said. The question of how the rightness of these decisions is determined does not seem to have come up. Perhaps a tremendous sense of confidence is enough.

"Step by step," the poodle of power continued, "we are implementing the agenda that the public wants to see, that we were elected in May (sic)." Assuming optimistically that all those who voted Labour in May want to see Tony's entire agenda implemented, Tony disqualifies from the British public sixty-odd per cent of the voters, to say nothing of our ever-growing Abstention Party. After all, if people can't be relied on to vote for what is "necessary to improve and modernise this country for the 21st century", they can hardly expect Tony to bother his head about them. One day, when we all find out at last what Britishness means, perhaps this poor self-destructive majority can somehow be re-integrated into society, if not exactly taken to our hearts.

Tony also explained why he is a "different politician" from when he invented New Labour in 1994: "politics in the end, is about the long term interests of this country and following it through." In order to follow anything through in the long term, naturally one must change one's mind about it, as when the long-term occupation of Iraq was carried out first because of the weapons of mass nonexistence and later because Saddam Hussein tortured people in places like Abu Ghraib. We're following that one through, to be sure.

Again, the sources of Tony's insights into the country's long-term interests, or the prescience by which he gains knowledge of future circumstances, are not revealed. But he has a tremendous sense of confidence, so that's all right.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Britain, Awaken

The Fabian Society has contributed yet another convolution to the writhing debate about what it means to be British. Apparently we run the risk of "creating a divided society" in place of the egalitarian paragon presently in operation, unless we learn to "promote a positive image of what Britishness means and adapt its institutions to reflect new realities".

Among the institutions mentioned is that "national symbol" of our as-yet-undivided society, the royal family. The coronation ceremony, says the Fabian Society, "should be revised now to reflect a more democratic mood and include a multi-faith oath". The Fabian Society also proposes "a religious equality act, which would not remove the privileges of the Church of England so much as share them with other faiths and denominations." Just what we need - a citizen monarch who will not only head the Church of England, but will serve as imam, rabbi, pope and Jedi Master as required. Hard-headed practicality is a very British virtue.

In addition, schools must be made less segregated by "instilling a stronger national curriculum for all schools, including faith schools". I wonder if it occurred to anyone in Britain's oldest political think tank that faith schools are necessarily discriminatory, according to whatever faith they happen to promulgate, and that therefore any attempt to make faith schools less segregated would result in a lack of faith schools?

We also need to invest more money in "fortifying a British Muslim identity" which will give Muslims a leg-up and enable the poor things to identify "emotionally and politically" with this country, once we have managed to identify it ourselves. A concept of Britishness which inclusifies Muslimity, negritude, Asiaticality and other forms of immigrantiness is a vital step forward if we are to avoid creating a new and strange society in which ethnicity is perceived as somehow interfering with nationality.

"There are omissions which are painfully obvious and which could easily be put right," argues a leading historian of British identity. "Why, for instance, are all the people on the British banknotes always white?" It might be because non-white Britons are a fairly recent phenomenon, and connected less with past glories than with the ignominious demise of the Empire. Since I am not aware that Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Michael Faraday, the Duke of Wellington or any of the others so portrayed made any substantial contribution to the Bank of England, I have never really understood the need to depict historical personages on banknotes at all.

Still, according to Michael White, "86% of people are proud to be British", and this despite the fact that only about 1% of people actually are. People still identify with our "traditions of justice and innovation" - another regrettable sign of a Britain stuck in the past, lost in a senile dream of Magna Carta, habeas corpus, the rule of law, and a pioneering national health service which didn't have to poach its staff from the Third World. Britain, awaken - those days are long gone.

Monday, December 19, 2005

No Longer Nasty

However liberal a Conservative one may be, of course, and however deeply one may have bonded with the likes of Andrew Rawnsley, as a pragmatic politician one must make practical choices. That, no doubt, accounts for the Eton-educated David Cameron's choice of Sun executive editor Chris Roycroft-Davis as a speech-writer.

"I believe David Cameron has many vital messages to communicate to voters," Roycroft-Davis said. David Cameron "has a bold vision for a modern Conservative party". Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the evidence from David Cameron's own mouth is quoted in Rawnsley's article and noted in my previous post. If there is anything bold, visionary or modern in the entire farrago, Peter Jackson is the new Stanley Kubrick.

Still more amusing is the idea that Cameron's bold, visionary, modern ideas - the ideas of a first-class honours graduate in Philosophy, Politics and Economics - must be refracted into the public gaze through the prismatic prose of a gossip columnist for the poor man's Daily Mail. Of course one cannot have enough people called Davis or David in one's shadow cabinet; and somebody has to translate all those Rawnsley-high ideals into appropriate monosyllables for the Murdoch-mesmerised proles; but surely there are more effective ways for Cameron to help big business towards a more socially useful role?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Practical Packing for a Wonderful Journey

The latest leader of the Conservative party kicks off the 2009 election campaign in today's Observer. "That he wants to talk in depth and at length to us," burbles guardian of democracy Andrew Rawnsley, "is a significant signal of the intent to reach out beyond the Conservative Party's core." It may be more a signal of the way in which, as the boy-wonder himself later observes, "the parties have come closer together"; like the Observer and like Blair himself, Cameron has been "dazzled" by Blair.

He has repudiated his repudiation of Thatcher's "There is no such thing as society"; poor Maggie's words were "taken out of context". Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake" was taken out of context, too, but it seems a fair summing up of the royal attitude in the fifteen years before 1789. What Thatcher was trying to say, according to Andrew Rawnsley, was that "families and individuals were much more important." Society is not nonexistent; it is merely insignificant compared with the material interests of the Murdochs, the Bushes, and the Cecil Parkinsons of the world. Cameron is "not rejecting" this concept of society; he is "seeking to rehabilitate it". The reason for this, apparently, is that he is a pragmatist: "I'm not a deeply ideological person - I'm a practical person, and pragmatic. I know where I want to get to, but I'm not ideologically attached to one particular method." He wants to get into 10 Downing Street, but doesn't much care how. Perhaps we are to take this as yet another significant difference from Blair.

David Cameron believes in "rolling back the state" and in letting voluntary bodies take care of "drug abuse, family breakdown, chaotic home environment, crime, poor public space" - all those poor people's problems with which the state should not seek to dirty its hands. Then again, the process of rolling back "must never leave the poor, the vulnerable and weak behind, and that's where the state clearly has a role", presumably in forcing people to dirty their own hands for free. David Cameron would like to see a "much greater role for social enterprises, private businesses, other organisations, to run training programmes". Rawnsley compares this to the left-liberal fantasy government frequently mentioned by the likes of Polly Toynbee and apparently to be run by Gordon Brown at some sweet time in the hereafter. The role of the state, as opposed to charity work, will be a "potentially big and defining dividing line". Democracy is not yet dead.

As the author of the 2005 "Are you thinking what we're thinking?" Conservative manifesto, David Cameron is of course "passionately committed to giving people who are being tortured and persecuted asylum". In a near-orgasmic access of Blairite fervour, he defines asylum as follows: "not just letting them in, but taking them to our hearts, and feeding and clothing and schooling them". This is because "there are clear benefits in a modern economy from having both emigration and immigration". He has always believed this, apparently; defending his literary legacy, he said there was a "very deep perception problem" over Conservative handling of the issue. Translated, this means that the public were too stupid to perceive the underlying, feeding, clothing, taking-to-heart-and-schooling message behind the Michael Howard rhetoric. Doubtless he has learned from the experience.

Iraq, it appears, is another of those issues on which the parties are closer together: "we're now, I think, pretty much all in the same place, which is to hand power over to the elected Iraqi government, Iraqi police force, Iraqi army, and bring the British troops back home", draw a line under the whole nasty business and let Halliburton and the permanent American bases do their bit for freedom.

Asked which Conservative prime ministers he most admires, Cameron goes for "the obvious, easy answers: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher". Apparently neither was an ideologue, both were deeply compassionate, both were thoroughly practical and pragmatic. Or the admirable thing about them might just be the fact that both of them got into power and stayed there. Asked which non-Conservative prime minister he most admires, Cameron has to cogitate a little, perhaps because he is too dazzled by Blair to remember any others. "I don't know - Palmerston?" Rawnsley says that Palmerston was a "mid-Victorian neo-con", whereupon Cameron dredges up another Liberal, William Gladstone, who liked chopping down trees and giving helpful advice to prostitutes and who also, incidentally, spent an inordinate number of years in power.

On education, David Cameron says that "a return to the 11-plus" is "not on the agenda at all". David Cameron represents small towns with only one or two schools, and the last thing he wants is for one to be a selective school and the other one not to be. That appears to settle the matter. David Cameron will also be ready to tell business "quite determinedly" where it must do more to protect the environment. Legislation is not mentioned. No doubt he plans to rely on goodwill. David Cameron did not, he says, "go into politics to be the mouthpiece for big business"; but "All our policies are under review" and he is, after all, a pragmatist.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

This Week's Tips for Democracy Enhancement

The caliphate in Washington is pressing the sovereign, independent government of Iraq to sack its interior minister. The minister, Bayan Jabr, is a Shia, and his staff have apparently been torturing Sunni prisoners.

"With a strong Sunni role in Iraq's next government apparently secure after their high turnout in Thursday's election," says the Guardian, "US officials want to ensure that cabinet posts are no longer exploited for sectarian or partisan ends." What US officials want, the independent, sovereign government of Iraq will just have to deliver. American officers are being "embedded" with interior ministry forces, commandos and police when they go about their business of rooting out terrorism. American officers are also making surprise inspections of prisons and detention centres, presumably to ensure that none bears too strong a resemblance to Guatánamo Bay.

The minister pleads that only seven people have been tortured, out of a hundred and seventy suspected terrorists; but the US ambassador says that more than a hundred people were subjected to "far worse than slapping around". Slapping around is fine with Washington, it seems.

For the benefit of the independent, sovereign Iraqi government, the ambassador has made it clear in the Washington Post that he wishes the minister dismissed or given a different job: "It will be important that the head of security at ministries be trusted by all communities and not come from elements of the population that have militias," such as Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Muslims, nationalists, Iraqis and so forth. "Equally important is that key ministers be selected not just for political considerations but also for competence," as in the world's greatest democracy, where loyalty to the ruling cabal is never, absolutely never, a precondition for high office.

"The next government must put more emphasis on human rights," the ambassador concluded, two days after the world's greatest democracy strapped a man to a trolley, paralysed him with an injection, and then stopped his heart with another.

Friday, December 16, 2005

News 2020

Scientists predict advertising revolution

The effort and difficulty involved in seeking out consumer information may soon be a thing of the past, scientists say.

Advances in microscopic and genetic surgery could enable doctors to implant a small receiver into the human brain which would enable it to receive direct signals from transmitters located in the vicinity or even further afield.

"It could be a very simple procedure, like having an inoculation," said Dr Marillion Quinsy of the National Institution for Cerebral Enhancement (NICE).

"One approach would be to enable companies to sponsor the procedure for individual foetuses, in return for a built-in receptivity to that company's products," Dr Quinsy continued.

"The transmitters would be very unobtrusive, possibly almost microscopic, so that hundreds of them could be embedded in almost any surface," he said.

The procedure could lead to the end of advertising billboards and commercial breaks on television within the next thirty years, said media expert Bradley Ichneumon.

"The potentialities for civic beautification are obviously considerable," Dr Ichneumon said, although he warned that it may be necessary to retain TV commercials because of the human attention span, which is thought to be genetically determined at 26 minutes' duration or less.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Myths, Mandates and Poison Gas

President Ahmadinejad of Iran continues his historiographic contributions by claiming that the west has "invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets". This is ridiculous, of course. The Holocaust is a useful enough excuse, but I doubt that many of our leaders are interested in making a fetish out of it. Should they ever feel the need to kill a few million more Muslims, placing the Holocaust above religion might get in the way of popular assent.

President Ahmadinejad also claimed that "if someone were to deny the myth of the Jews' massacre, all the Zionist mouthpieces and the governments subservient to the Zionists scream against the person as much as they can." This does the Zionist mouthpieces an injustice. It does not take a denial of the Holocaust to get them screaming. A denial of Israel's right to do as it pleases to the Palestinians, or to bomb whom it pleases in the Middle East, is generally more than enough.

President Ahmadinejad, with that strange lack of logic which characterises so many non-Western supporters of nuclear deterrence, asked why the Palestinians should pay the price for European crimes. "Give a part of your own land in Europe, the US, Canada or Alaska to them so that the Jews can establish their country," he said, apparently unaware of the Biblical authority for Israel's location. It was, of course, the word of God that Balfour had in mind when, shocked by Nazi atrocities on Kristallnacht, he made his famous Declaration in 1917.

In 1919, Winston Churchill, the man who won the war against anti-semitism, declared himself "strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes"; and three years later, in recognition of his moral authority, the League of Nations endorsed Britain's mandate in Palestine. Because of Jewish suffering in the Nazi death camps, Article 2 of the mandate stated that the administration would "secure the establishment of the Jewish national home". The same article provided for the safeguarding of the "civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine", which in 1967 were unilaterally terminated by Israel as a result of Arab aggression and Palestinian terrorism.

President Ahmadinejad really ought to acquaint himself with the facts before indulging in these outbursts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Once Upon a Time...

In the well-known tradition of Blairite accountability, Tony and his chums have informed us that there is no need for a public inquiry into the London bombings on 7 July. Instead, a senior civil servant will compile a "narrative", using evidence compiled by the police and two select committees. Oh goody - story time again.

Some of the victims' relatives have been so discourteous as to "reserve judgement" about the narrative until they can "assess whether it would establish all the facts about the bombings." Why don't people listen? Tony has informed us that "we do essentially know what happened." It follows, then, that the facts have been established and all that is now necessary is for them to be woven into seamless prose by a senior civil servant. That is what's necessary, so that's what we're going to get.

Tony informed the House of Commons that he "understood concerns over the issue", and magnanimously accepted that people "will want to know exactly what happened." Those who live in Tony's Choice Emporium yet choose to travel on tube trains must have their little quirks, after all. Tony will humour them. Tony and his chums "will bring together all the evidence that we have and we will publish it so that people, the victims and others, can see exactly what happened."

The Minister for Identity Cards agrees that there is need of a narrative. A narrative always helps. However, he disagreed with Tony's assessment that "actually we do essentially know what happened". The Minister said that there were still questions over how the bombers operated and whether they acted alone. Unless knowledge of the bombers' modus operandi and possible accomplices who may seek to repeat the trick is considered inessential, this seems a rather large discrepancy; and the narrative hasn't even started yet.

Meanwhile, Sir Ian Blair, the instant and utter Metropolitan Police commissioner, has assured us that the terrorist threat has intensified since 7 July and that active cells are still plotting suicide attacks. This no doubt flawlessly independent assessment is part of the reason why Tony does not think it would be sensible to "divert a massive amount of police and security service time" into researching the bombings of 7 July, since we already know all the essentials. Tony also warned against thinking the intelligence services knew everything. That sounds to me like jolly good advice.

Still, the Minister for Identity Cards was realistic enough to accept that a senior civil servant, whatever his narrative skills, would not be independent of the government. He, and we, can afford to accept this because the government is not going to try to cover anything up. "Certainly, there is no question of a cover-up of any kind," the Minister said; so apparently there is not going to be any kind of cover-up. I am sure the government will not try to cover anything up. Sleep well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Getting the Message Across

A spontaneous outpouring of curiosity at a speech in Philadelphia has led George W Bush to offer his thoughts on the total death toll in the Iraq war. Apart from the 2,140 who almost really matter, and the ninety-eight whose names it is illegal to mention near the Cenotaph, "thirty thousand have died more or less", as Bush movingly put it.

Meanwhile, as often happens in Iraq, somebody has carried out a poll. It makes heartening reading. "Nearly 71% of those questioned described their lives now as quite good or very good", while "just over half said life was better than before the war". This is certainly encouraging. A mere two and a half years after Mission Accomplished, and with only a few cities bombarded (albeit some more than once), Oxford Research International has found some people who think life has improved. A majority of respondents even think that life today is better than under the sanctions which preceded the war and which killed perhaps half a million children. It may be a slim majority; but, as Bush himself once pointed out, fifty per cent plus one is all you need. Bush even compared Iraq's politicians to the founding fathers of the United States, who also believed in government by the wealthy. "It's a remarkable transformation for a country that has virtually no experience with democracy and which is struggling to overcome the legacy of one of the worst tyrannies the world has known," he said. We must never forget that Saddam was a new Hitler, and that whatever one may say about the occupation, it still has not managed to kill quite so many people as Saddam.

This, obviously, is the reason why only a quarter of people interviewed by Oxford Research International wanted "an immediate troop withdrawal". Most would like us to depart once certain milestones have been reached; among them "the restoration of security" and "the development of Iraqi security forces capable of operating on their own", which presumably means we cannot leave until we have left or until we have built an Iraq more like Saddam's in the 1980s; or "the establishment of a new Iraqi government after Thursday's elections", which means we can leave on Friday. In choosing which milestone will signal the troops' departure, I trust that Bush and Blair will not allow their deference to the wishes of the Iraqi people to cloud their judgement overmuch. The country has, after all, virtually no experience with democracy. A slim majority even said that the invasion in 2003 was wrong. It may have been a majority, but of course it was only slim; and as Bush and his Supreme Court proved in 2000, the majority view is not always the correct one.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Straw Renders it Straight

For those who remain insufficiently reassured by Condoleezza Rice's assertion that the US does not practise anything that the US would define as torture, good news. A grey suit in the Foreign Office has been unable to find any evidence that the CIA has been using Britain as a stopover on "extraordinary rendition" flights, except perhaps once or twice during the bad old days of the Clinton administration.

"Careful research," the suit informed the BBC, "has been unable to identify any occasion ... when we have received a request for permission by the United States for a rendition through the United Kingdom territory or airspace." So even if the flights would have been illegal, which they wouldn't, they weren't even here in the first place. Furthermore, according to the aviation minister, "if these aircraft landed in the UK they were either not involved in civil commercial transport or were stopping for technical purposes, for example to refuel". So even if the flights had come here, which they didn't, they clearly wouldn't have been doing anything wrong. This is certainly reassuring.

The suit's very own people have "checked through all the detail" of the allegations, and have "found no records relating to any policy considerations" whereby the White House asked us to facilitate some renditionising and we, after our usual fashion, said fine. No requests for passage from Transworld Torture Airways have been recorded; no khaki-clad stewardesses have been heard to say, "Now let's just tighten these straps, and then I'll extinguish my cigarette". Naturally, if the CIA had been using our airports for the purpose of flying people off to be tortured, they would have asked nicely, in writing, before doing so. They certainly would not have omitted to ask Jack Straw. The poodle's consent can be taken as read, of course; but one cannot be so sure about his fleas.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Liberty for the Law-Abiding

The Vicar of Downing Street, whose commitment to legality is even now being sampled by several million Iraqis, has placed a special sermon in the Observer to set us all straight on his war against crime. "Our citizens should not live in fear," proclaims the headline, with customary Blairite restraint. "The most important freedom is that of harm from others," proclaims the tagline, with customary Blairite subtlety. "It is not just about tough versus soft but about whose civil liberties come first," proclaims Tony, with customary Blairite egalitarianism.

"Britain, by 1997, had undergone rapid cultural and social change in recent decades," Tony tells us, incidentally highlighting the chronic shortage of English teachers for future spin doctors. Much of the change was "necessary and good", but some of it had "damaging and unforeseen consequences", which was not good. There were weaker family ties, and communities became more fractured, sometimes desirably fractured and sometimes not. Civil institutions such as the church - the only civil institution worth mentioning - declined in importance. "At the start of the 20th century, communities shared a strong moral code," Tony informs us, calling up his predecessor's Edwardian paradise of warm beer, cricket and a low crime rate.

By the time Tony was vouchsafed the responsibility for the country's salvation in 1997, the criminal justice system "was failing every reasonable test that could be applied". Crime, it appears, had doubled (since the beginning of the year? the beginning of the decade? the beginning of the century? Tony does not confuse us with such matters). "Trials were ineffective, witness protection was poor and the courts were very inefficient. ... The choice was stark; either we accepted that nothing could be done ... or we granted new powers to local authorities and the police." The answer to ineffective trials is to introduce detention without trial. The answer to inefficient courts is to take the courts out of the equation.

All this has "a strong philosophical justification, from within the Labour tradition" because "one of the basic insights of the left, one of its distinguishing features, is to caution against too excessive an individualism", except when George W Bush and the CBI say otherwise, of course. "People must live together," Tony informs us, "and one of the basic tasks of government is to facilitate this living together, to ensure that the many can live without fear of the few." Well gosh, I never thought of it like that before.

This basic managerial facilitation imperative is the reason why rights must be coupled "once again" with responsibilities. Tony is opposed to "the breakdown of society on the basis of rights divorced from obligations". Tony does not wish to be associated with "the belief that the causes of crime are entirely structural". After eight years of Tony's restructuring premiership, how on earth could they be? "Instead of record unemployment, we now have record numbers of people in work. Sustained investment in schools is improving education for all. The New Deal has helped one million youngsters off the scrapheap and into work. Sure Start and the New Deal for Communities are making huge differences to the most deprived neighbourhoods." Well, that settles that. Those who remain anti-social in this paradise must be just plain bad.

Tony reassures us that "authority always has to be exercised with due restraint" and that he is "very sensitive to the need to preserve accountability". He will ensure that "good appeals processes are always built into new structures." It is a shame he finds so much less time to detail those processes than he spent on New Labour's record of putting people in work, improving education and getting juvenile resources off the scrap heap. In any case, his final paragraph makes clear that the only other possible option was "to do nothing", and that, naturally, his own proposals are somewhat superior to this. "The basic liberties of the law-abiding citizen should come first." The nature of the laws by which citizens must abide can safely be left to Tony and his chums - those paragons of laisser-faire legality.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

News 2020

Prime Minister "satisfied" with influence on US attitude

The United States has walked out of the negotiations to agree an agenda for preliminary talks towards agreeing voluntary measures to curb climate change.

The US produces a third of the world's greenhouse gases, or a quarter if White House speeches are discounted.

The American negotiating team, headed by former international suspect tenderiser Bolton John, said that the negotiations constituted an attempt by rivals to undermine American economic supremacy.

"These so-called negotiations require anti-market commitments from the American economy," the Commander-in-Chief said today. "The American economy does not commit. The American economy rocks."

The British Prime Minister, who has on three occasions had televised sexual intercourse with the Commander-in-Chief's second favourite dog in an effort to encourage US participation in the talks, was said by aides to be "satisfied" with the outcome of the talks.

"The United States has a long and proud tradition of independence and the Prime Minister has telephoned Washington to reiterate Britain's pride and happiness in that fact," said Downing Street spokesperson Inigo Squabbs.

Speaking from one of the more air-conditioned of the White House press bunkers, the Commander-in-Chief condemned the 159 signatories to the preliminary agenda which was agreed today.

"America views with grave misapprehensivitisation the deliberate actions of much of the world in being out of step with the United States," he said.

Friday, December 09, 2005

News 2020

New film passed as uncontroversial

Veteran film-maker Lucas Playhill's latest release has been given a clean bill of health by US diplomats and corporate VIPs.

A private screening of the director's upcoming film, Airplane, failed to spark the political row which had been predicted by some who claimed the film was soft on terrorism.

The film depicts the notorious Cheney Airport incident in which fourteen armed air marshals pre-emptively neutralised the entire passenger cabin of a Blairways Boeing 911 Supercomfort jet.

The marshals later claimed that one of them had heard a passenger mention the word "bomb", while another had seen a different passenger with a suspiciously bulky stomach which resembled a rucksack.

Although still officially on trial, all of the marshals have been returned to active duty until their lawsuits against each other and against Instant & Utter Security Incorporated, the private security firm which placed them on the aircraft, have been concluded.

Mr Playhill said he was "very pleased" with the diplomatic and corporate reaction to the film.

"There's been a lot of controversy but I think the real message of the film is a positive one," he said. "I think what we're trying to say is that it isn't marshals or passengers who are to blame for what happened, but the bad stuff that happens in the world from time to time."

The film depicts the airport pacification and its aftermath, focusing on the fictionalised character of one of the air marshals whose marriage is saved thanks to his overcoming of his guilt to neutralise a genuine terrorist on a different aircraft full of children some years later.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Showing Them How It's Done

Our nation-building mission in Iraq does not consist merely in advising the natives how their oil might best be exploited; no indeed. Even Ann Clwyd's valiant attempts to shoehorn human rights into the Iraqi psyche are not the end of our civilising influence.

The British Council has initiated a programme to bring British and Iraqi universities closer together. "We have a duty and a responsibility to help the Iraqis rebuild their country," said the higher education minister, Bill Rammell. So we're focusing on "management training and capacity-building." The grateful natives are "learning about management techniques, about working with industry, engaging with employers, community engagement and governance." That will certainly help.

According to the Guardian, Bill Rammell said "that vocational training in Iraq was 'one of the best in the region' in the 1980s, before Saddam Hussein ran it down." The 1980s was the decade when Iraq was a favoured western trading partner and ally against the Iranian threat. The 1980s was also the decade during which Saddam Hussein gassed Halabja, much to the west's chagrin in 2003. Perhaps the Saddam Hussein who was in charge of Iraq during the 1980s was a different Saddam Hussein. Iraqi colleges were "cut off from their international peers" under at least one of the Saddam Husseins, though the Guardian is regrettably silent as to whether it was the one who was armed with western equipment in the 1980s or the one who was strengthened by western sanctions in the 1990s.

Naturally, the natives have been impressed by our architecture, some of which has not been bombed: "They've been very impressed by the resourcing and the very modern buildings they've experienced when they've gone to the colleges," said Katie Epstein, the British Council's director of vocational partnerships. Above all, they have been impressed by "working alongside their peers and learning new systems for student-centred learning." This is certainly natural. The vocational partnerships division of the British Council has even managed to give the Iraqis a few pointers about "what is valuable in their own system." That sounds heartwarmingly multicultural of them.

All in all, for the hitherto unfortunate victims of one or other of the Saddam Husseins, all this - the British architecture, the resourcing, the learning of new learning systems, and of course the valuing - adds up to a revelatory experience: "Coming over here has given them enormous confidence and recovered their pride in their history and academic traditions that they always had in Iraq," said Katie Epstein. "They can really see a point where they can rebuild that," especially as "labour mobility is a real feature of the Middle East", as in all free societies. Already, some of the natives "have radically changed the way they manage their institutions and have introduced more participative democratic management models". Gosh. And it's all thanks to us.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

New Tory, New Tony

Barely had David Cameron's new seat as Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition cooled after Prime Minister's Question Time today than the Labour party chair, Ian McCartney, dashed off an email to me. I am informed, in case I hadn't noticed, that "the fundamental divide between the parties remains the same." Both of them want to govern the country, but only one of them, at a maximum, can do so at any one time. "The Prime Minister made clear that it wasn't enough to say you supported education reforms - you needed to back that up with support for Labour's investment programme." Those who call Tony "Lord, Lord" shall not be saved, but only those who do the will of his Father in heaven.

Also, "Labour would never agree with the Tory leader's belief that we should return to selection at the age of eleven." Tony believes in selection by income, not age. The Tories, I am told, "opposed all Labour's extra investment in schools, hospitals and the police and are still committed to cuts to public spending, to axing the New Deal, cuts to tax credits, and to selection in schools". They didn't oppose Blair's commitment to trampling international law, but Ian McCartney does not mention this. Possibly he believes that he can make his case without dragging in matters under which Tony has drawn a line.

In any case, it's clear that Ian McCartney thinks the Tories are a very bad thing indeed, and that if they were in charge Britain would not be in the state it's in today. Its schools would be in need of urgent overhaul, its hospitals inadequately funded, its police perhaps even inclined to be trigger-happy. Obviously, that would be just too awful.

"We need to show Britain what these 'modern Tories' really stand for," Ian McCartney concludes. "Your support is vital"; whereupon he holds out the e-cap for a financial donation. As an afterthought, Ian McCartney adds "PS. With important elections next year, we need you out campaigning so I'll be in touch with more information about how you can help take on the Tories", and holds out the e-cap for another financial donation. I can hardly wait.

This apprehension among the Blairites is only natural, of course. According to Ian McCartney, "Conservatives' current rebranding exercise is simply putting a new gloss on ... Tory policies". It seems David Cameron really is the new Tony Blair.

Nay, there is worse. David Cameron has a disabled child, a pregnant wife with whose lump he finds public quality time at every opportunity, and he has invited everyone - yes, everyone! - to accompany him on a wonderful journey. David Cameron is young, looks back upon his university days with the kind of tolerant indulgence Conservative politicians normally spare for rich people's children, and has more hair than his three predecessors put together. To the first Tony Blair, labouring desperately to keep yet more embarrassing curtains from rising to reveal his roaring inadequacy, David Cameron must seem like a Dorothy, poised with his chums (David "Tin Man" Davis, George "Put 'em up" Osborne and Boris "If I only had a brain" Johnson, perhaps) upon the yellow brick road of Liberal Democrat collaboration and ready to take Tony's place as munchkin-in-charge to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

News 2020

Rendition prevention deliveration verification deliberation

The Minister for Deliverance from Evil, Bartram Flapper, today delivered his report on preventive rendition of potential terrorists and the effectivity of outsourcing enhanced info-extraction procedures.

Mr Flapper defended the Government's record, saying that over fifty major terrorist incidents had been prevented in the past month thanks to renditional techniques.

In an unexpected downturn of the anti-nastiness economy, only 327 terrorist incidents had been prevented so far this year, the Minister said.

But he added that "this must be set against the remarkable figure of over two thousand renderings during almost the same period, making an average of at least one prevention for every 6.116 renditions."

The leader of the opposition, Boris Johnson, ridiculed the Government's figures, calling them "a Stakhanovite fabrication of fantasy anti-terror marketeering" and claiming that prevention of "rucksacks on public transport" had been given the same status as prevention of major atrocities.

Mr Flapper accused the NuConLib Alliance leader of "playing politics with prevention" and suggested that stress had temporarily rendered Mr Johnson's Britishness levels dangerously low.

"Even as I speak, terrorist atrocities are being prevented and various North African police forces are exercising humanitarian restraint owing to the British government's insistence on justice, fair play and human rights," the Minister said.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sex, Intelligent Design and Microtus Ochrogaster

A few months ago, as everyone knows, it was conclusively proven that God exists and that he believes in traditional family values. Penguins, like Christians, are monogamous (sort of); and, unlike many species not created by God, they tend to look after their young. "Penguins are the really ideal example of monogamy," gushed one Rich Lowry to an audience of the young and gullible. He was discussing the film March of the Penguins, which is about emperor penguins. Emperor penguins are serially monogamous, taking a different partner every year. Like Christians, too, penguins cannot fly except by the will of God; are frequently wet; and are probably unable to grasp the finer points of documentaries about penguins.

Nevertheless, Republican family values, as set down by Jesus, continue to be discovered amidst the humbler fauna. Researchers at Florida State University have discovered scientific proof that monogamy is nature's way.

Prairie voles, like Christians and unlike emperor penguins, have a "habit of lifelong monogamy", to the extent that male prairie voles will show aggression towards other females once they have found Miss Right, rather like certain human males whose bride is the Church. Also like Christians, prairie voles "use postures to indicate behaviors toward enemies or competitors. They signal a threat by raising their forefeet, extending their head forward, and chattering their teeth. Other postures are the upright stand, the lunge, boxing, wrestling, the chase, and retreat." Obviously this is a sign.

After mating, the male voles become devoted to their chosen ones, apparently thanks to a sizeable release of dopamine in their little brains. The dopamine restructures a part of the vole's little brain called the nucleus accumbens, which translates aptly as reclining nut. Many other animals, apart from voles, have a nucleus accumbens, including human beings. The restructuring of their reclining nuts meant that the voles remained faithful to their females even when the introduction of new females caused renewed production of dopamine.

The researchers acknowledged that, as the astute reader may have suspected, "the love lives of voles differ from those of humans"; but as long as the brain structures are similar they will work in similar ways. The word vole, of course, is an anagram of love. Coincidence? I think not. The fingerprints of the Divine Hand are all over this one.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Most Dangerous Game

Ernest B Schoedsack & Irving Pichel 1932

The original 1933 version of King Kong is, of course, a Hollywood classic. It has everything: a beautiful heroine, spectacular special effects, an inane plot, spectacular special effects, cardboard characters, spectacular special effects, a dim-witted but pretentious script, and spectacular special effects. No wonder everyone still loves it.

The Most Dangerous Game was shot back-to-back with King Kong, partly on the same jungle sets, by a team that included many of the same personnel - co-director Ernest Schoedsack, screenwriter James Creelman, composer Max Steiner and star Fay Wray. It lacks almost all the advantages of King Kong. Its effects are restrained, its performances largely professional, its characters complex, and Wray gets to act as well as scream; nevertheless, there are one or two points in its favour.

Closely adapted from an award-winning story by Richard Connell, the plot concerns an American adventurer and big-game hunter, Robert Rainsford (Sanger Rainsford in the original; apparently the name was too sanguinary for a film hero) whose relaxing yacht cruise with his playboy friends is violently interrupted when the ship is wrecked. Fortuitously spared by the sharks which finish off all the other survivors, Rainsford (played by Joel McCrea) manages to swim ashore to a small island, where he hears the sound of a hunting horn and, later, the screams of some strange animal.

The island, it transpires, is the home of Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks), a Cossack general who has the obligatory monstrous mute servant (called, for a change, Ivan and not Igor) and a consuming passion for the hunt. A tapestry on the wall next to the spiral staircase in his castle depicts a wounded satyr, with Zaroff's own face, bearing a helpless maiden in his arms. "Kill, then love," the general says; "when you have known that, you have known ecstasy." Rainsford, though his phrasing is less plummy, seems to agree.

This sexual theme is missing from the original story, in which Rainsford and Zaroff are the only protagonists; in the film, Zaroff has preserved a couple of other survivors from a previous shipwreck. Martin Trowbridge (Robert Armstrong) is an irritating, inebriated version of Rainsford's late friends aboard the yacht; but his sister Eve (Fay Wray) manages to drop several hints to Rainsford that Zaroff's lavish hospitality is not offered entirely in an altruistic spirit. A couple of sailors who were wrecked with them have mysteriously disappeared; and the general's own boat, which would otherwise be at their disposal for transport to the mainland, is, unfortunately, under repair.

In the presence of Rainsford, whose hunting prowess he deeply respects, Zaroff is happy to explain himself. His own passion for the hunt, he says, had become self-defeating; there was no animal that could best him. Even when he tried to increase the odds against himself by using primitive weapons, he always won - although one opponent did manage to give him an impressive scar on the forehead, to which his hand unconsciously strays when Rainsford innocently mentions the "strange beast" he heard howling when he arrived. The hunt, which was all the Count had lived for, was beginning to bore him. He needed a new animal to hunt - one that could reason.
"But, General, no animal can do that."
"My dear fellow, there is one that can."

After a trip to the trophy room, where the general takes his guests to convince them of his seriousness, Rainsford and Eve find themselves playing Zaroff's "outdoor chess". The general is scrupulous: having arranged their shipwreck, he always ensures his opponents are in the best of condition, and supplies them with hunting clothes and a knife. If they elude him for a day, they are free. Rainsford, who on his friend's yacht had claimed that hunting is a fair fight between equally matched opponents, is at first unconvinced that this is altogether a sporting proposition; but before long his instinct for the game overcomes his moral outrage. When, during one of the few quiet moments in the chase, he tells Eve: "Those animals I killed - now I know how they felt," his tone is decidedly ambiguous.

In the final shot, the dying Zaroff falls from his window to "furnish a repast for the hounds", as the story has it, while in the distance a boat carries Rainsford and Eve to safety. The end credits, like those at the start, play over an image of the castle's massive door-knocker - the satyr, bearing the helpless maiden. Given the constant changes of role between hunter and hunted, Zaroff and Rainsford, there is room for doubt as to just how happy this ending is - at least for Eve, the prize.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Playing Tag

It isn't only the secret police and the ever-burgeoning prison industry who can benefit from satellite technology. Parental resources can use it, too.

Using the i-Kids satellite mobile phone, you can now track your child's movements to a radius of twenty to fifty metres. You can also select a "Safety Zone Alert" which will alert you by text if the i-Kids satellite mobile phone is conveyed outside a certain area. You can track your child's movements with KidsOK; and in the Land of the Free they're selling electronic tagging devices to sound alarms if a child leaves the house, leaves their room, leaves the broom cupboard. They're selling the Wherifone, which combines parental surveillance capacity with illiterate brand-naming to a degree almost unprecedented in modern civilisation. They're selling Teen Arrive Alive, Ulocate and DriveDiagnostics so that the location, direction and speed of teenage drivers may be monitored.

In this country, for £450 you can buy a "Personal Companion" to chaperone your infant to within a distance of two metres. It's a band which folds around the child's arm, and if she's being kidnapped she simply squeezes it, sending a signal to your mobile telephone. Naturally, when it is put on the market, kidnappers will not know of its existence and thus will not think to check the limbs of the children they are abducting, much less incapacitate them. Microsoft has apparently come up with a "cyber-teddy" with computerised eyes. Big Brother is cuddling you.

Soon, no doubt, we shall have electronic tags which emit a small electric shock to the brats whenever they cross that invisible boundary. We shall have whole bedrooms wired for sound and vision, with alarms that sound automatically when the little treasure watches the wrong television channel, doesn't do its homework at the hour allotted for homework, tries to remove one of its electronic tagging devices, or attempts suicide. We shall have devices wired to their little skulls which will stimulate their pleasure centres when they are Good, and their pain centres when they are Bad. You won't even have to lay a hand on them. In fact, it may soon be possible to look after your children without even meeting them more than you absolutely want to.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The War on Crime, Hurrah

"Our deepest national conviction is that every life is precious, because every life is the gift of a creator who intended us to live in liberty and equality."
George W Bush, 11 September 2002


That bastion of civilisation, that liberator of the oppressed, that scourge of injustice, that enforcer of law, that glowing God-favoured paragon of justice tempered with mercy, the United States, today set another fine example for the rest of us by terminally renditionising its thousandth bad guy since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The USA temporarily abandoned the death penalty for ten years before that, perhaps because it had a use for murderers in Vietnam and needed jail space for refuseniks.

The object of this millennial exercise in correction was one Kenneth Lee Boyd, who killed his estranged wife and her father seventeen years ago and was sentenced in 1994. I am sure we are all well rid of him. Thirty-eight of the fifty states permit the death penalty; and China, Iran and Vietnam executed even more people than the US last year, so presumably nothing about the business was either cruel or unusual. This is what makes the death penalty such an effective deterrent.

Meanwhile, a former Crown Colony has been warned by one of the Great Liberator's henchmen, John Howard, that executing Australian drug traffickers "will have an effect on the relationship [between Australia and Singapore] on a people-to-people, population-to-population basis". It will not, of course, have any effect on arms dealing or other money-making activities.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

We Weren't Always This Ethical, You Know

Now, here's a shock: the Foreign Office has not always told the truth. Declassified documents from before Jack Straw's appointment, or even Robin Cook's, have revealed that British diplomats in Indonesia and London lied about their knowledge of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. They also lied about their knowledge of atrocities committed by the Indonesians, "particularly the killing of three Australian and two British newsmen".

A couple of hundred thousand nonentities who also perished are not considered worthy of mention by Britain's leading liberal newspaper, although the Guardian does provide a link to this site, which has links to the declassified documents themselves and which also seems to have been written by a human being rather than by John Aglionby.

"East Timor's annexation by Jakarta was never recognised by the UN," Aglionby concludes blithely, "and it won its independence in 1999," at about the time the Vicar of Downing Street and friends were piling on the moral agony, and the high explosives, over Kosovo. Britain supplied the Hawk fighter aircraft with which the Indonesian government did its best to terrorise the Timorese into voting against independence, in a high-motivation persuasion campaign which cost perhaps three to five thousand lives, though fortunately none of them belonged to British or Australian journalists.