The Curmudgeon


Friday, June 30, 2006

Unhealthy Speculation

Patsy Hackitt, the Nurses' Friend, has hurried to calm malicious rumours that the Government means what it says. An advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Union invited private companies to enter "competitive dialogue" (as opposed, presumably, to entering mere sordid competition) and tender for "a comprehensive range of management services including primary care trust management and related services". Of course, this was not an accurate reflection of government policy. It was probably all Ms Hackitt's secretary's fault. In fact, they probably didn't even pay for the advertisement.

Nevertheless, Ms Hackitt has felt obliged to extrude a rebuttal of "reports in some newspapers", said rebuttal to be printed in tomorrow's Guardian, where I trust no evil-minded and irresponsible commenters will be tempted to post the words "clap ... clap ... clap" beneath the health secretary's doubtless effortful outpouring. The rebuttal repeats the mantra that the government "is committed to a publicly funded health service that is free at the point of use and available to all, regardless of means." Leaving in charitable abeyance the question of whether any sane, bribe-free adult can believe anything the government says, it is noticeable that the mantra does not commit the government to anything so exotic as quality of service, meeting the needs of communities, or treating staff like human beings. It matters little that the NHS is publicly funded if the public funds are being channelled into PFI hospitals with swishy corporate logos outside and no particular interest in the people they are supposed to be serving. It matters still less that the NHS is free at the point of use if the point of use is understaffed, overworked, and pullulating with corporate middle-management Grins of Reassurance™.

Ms Hackitt further states that "there is no question whatsoever of 'privatising' the NHS," and the inverted commas are immediately noticeable. If there is no question of privatising the NHS, why not say there is no question of privatising the NHS? Does Ms Hackitt have her own special definition of "privatise", like Condoleezza Rice with "torture"? If so, do we get a prize for guessing what it is? If there is no question of "privatising" the NHS, what precisely is it that there is no question of doing?

Not much, it appears. Ms Hackitt says that primary care trusts, the local bodies responsible for purchasing health care services "can never outsource this responsibility, or ask others to make these decisions for them", but on the other hand, will be able to "buy in outside help to improve their commissioning role". Perhaps they will be permitted to consult multinational companies as philanthropic as the one owned by Riley Bechtel CBE, or as dedicated to the country's best interests as the foreign conglomerate which owns Thames Water.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

In Loco Parentis

As we know, the Vicar of Downing Street has little patience with the idea of innocence. In this fallen world, into which his reverence has been thrust in order to suffer for all our sakes, there can be no true innocents; there can only be the guilty, the suspected and the potentially suspected. Accordingly, the Government intends to set up yet another database so as to ensure that all of Britain's under-eighteens are properly categorised. The database will be linked to lots of other databases, will be voluntary until the rules of the game are changed, and "will provide a complete directory from birth, including all the agencies with which children have been in contact and whether they have had an assessment as a result of concerns about their development". Expressions of concern will be enablified by a facility for viewers of the database to flag up a problem, a suspected problem, or a potential suspected problem. Two such flags could result in an investigation. It is to be hoped that any instant and utter protectiveness by police would be more economical than the seventy-eight officers who were recently required to arrest a man and some placards, and more restrained than the two hundred whose recent dawn raid may have led some young people of a certain religious persuasion to doubt the customary self-restraint and institutional anti-racism of the great British police. Given such glowing examples of level-headedness and regard for human rights, it can only be a matter of time before we begin to see the sequels and extended, expanded remakes of this little incident, which took place around the time his reverence was admiring Margaret Thatcher's third election victory.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Satanic Supplement

Asunder,adj. Natural state of a married couple.
Betrayed by his helpmeet at bridge,
And therefore in debt by a smidge,
He broke, with the phone,
Her occipital bone,
And stowed her away in the fridge.
Rev. Wibley Beamish

Cabinet,n. Receptacle for storing medicines in normal households, and poisons in Downing Street.

Deshabille,n. Just enough to cover up the wrinkles till the light is turned out.

Genealogy,n. The compilation and study of the ancestral errata.

Ill-gotten,adj. Gained at your expense.

Never,adv. Not until expediency compels, more or less.

Predecease,v.t. To treat with unusual and frequently reluctant consideration.

Ruftiform,adj. Shaped like an Elizabethan collar.
The glands on her neck had become itchily inflamed, leaving it red and repulsively ruftiform.
Chrober Jitterthwick

Shotgun,n. Handy implement used in facilitating the least enjoyable kind of wedding, the most enjoyable kind of divorce, and many other of the more delicate types of business transaction.

Version,n. Competing distortion of the truth.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Renewed Covenant

The Vicar of Downing Street has placed a sermon in the Guardian; perhaps the Daily Mail has become over-fastidious. For those lacking the energy to absorb the full glory of his reverence's theology, hagiography and homily, an abridged version is offered herewith. I trust nothing important has been omitted.

It is the best of times ... any Labour activist ... what we have since achieved ... nine years of economic growth ... best employment record ... public services improving ... less likely to be victims of crime ... any time in recent history ... huge cuts in child and pensioner poverty ... leading place ... international effort ... development and climate change ... long-held Labour ambitions ... devolution ... minimum wage ... three election victories ... a fourth ... pensions to energy to public-service reform ... only serious policy agenda on offer ... driving it forward on every front ... a Labour government lost an election ... cuts and chaos of the late 70s ... problems of the past months ... genuine disappointment ... in cases, disillusion ... actually ... long-serving ... two key things ... strategy of pessimism ... our opponents intend to defeat us ... I was on a platform ... mother of four from Oldham ... changes to the criminal-justice system ... critical of the way the system worked ... spoke eloquently ... antisocial behaviour legislation ... regeneration of the inner cities ... her life and her community ... joined the Labour party ... the March for Jobs ... annual NHS winter crisis ... schools with outside toilets ... pensioner fuel poverty ... Africa ... climate change ... renew the Labour party ... big idea behind New Labour ... economic efficiency ... social justice ... myself and Gordon Brown ... expanding opportunity ... economic success ... moral imperative ... efficiency ... justice ... fairness ... the future ... renewal ... renewing ... direction ... direction ... I was at a conference ... contestability, diversity of provision and consumer choice ... renewal ... renewing ... taking further what we've done ... more power ... service user - power ... wealth ... need ... enabling ... controlling ... extending choice and voice ... old barriers that restrict the creativity of the frontline ... go further ... law-and-order policies ... past nine years ... on the side of the people ... our alliances ... US ... EU ... strong ... interventionist ... enterprise and business ... trade unions ... correct positions ... progressive politics ... modern era ... debate ... openly and candidly ... "renewal" ... public service ... big business ... viable programme for government ... "renewal" ... myth of betrayal ... this Labour government ... better record than any ... manifesto commitments ... myth ... reality of policy ... hard work ... ruling party ... your own government ... attacking your opponent's ... centre ground ... slick PR strategy ... real-life policy decision ... best strategy ... best ideas ... renewal is vital ... renewal starts ... looking back in anger ... looking forward in hope and expectation ... hope ... conviction ... New Labour ... in office ... proud economic record ... fostering public and private investment ... science, skills and infrastructure ... energy security and sustainable growth ... streamlining planning ... stimulating private enterprise ... knowledge-based, high-value-added industrial and service base ... real progress ... employment, education and poverty ... more ambitious ... radical ... addressing the problems ... socially excluded ... public-service reforms ... diversity of provision ... payment by results ... individualised budgets ... public-service reform ... ambitious national standards ... diversity of providers ... new choice or a stronger voice ... take this forward ... criminal justice ... public services ... self-improving systems ... modernise central and local government ... balance rights with responsibilities ... radical reform ... criminal-justice system ... focuses on the offender ... rights of the victim ... welfare reform ... need to go further ... new entitlements ... higher expectations ... foreign policy ... interventionist, internationalist, multilateralist ... driven by our values ... reform international institutions ... values ... challenges ... debate ... Labour ... next election ... renewing ... dumping ... let's hear it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

As Influential as Influenza?

The spectre of nationalism (an ugly spirit afflicting many persons with inadequate levels of Britishness) raised its unpleasant head in Australia today when Bulletin magazine named Rupert Murdoch the most influential Australian of all time. Despite a rare burst of truthfulness in which the owner of the Sun newspaper said that others had "done a great deal more to improve the whole world", a heckler was uncharitable enough to inquire, "How can the most influential Australian of all time be an American?" Murdoch gave up his Australian citizenship in 1985 because the Americans had a law against non-citizens owning their television stations, and Murdoch was anxious to bring his improving influence to bear on Fox News. In civilised Britain, of course, where nationalism is less prevalent than in our unruly former colonies, we don't care who owns our news media provided they evince a healthy hatred of Europe.

In any case, given the course of human history it seems rather odd that "influential" is regarded as a compliment, even by so modest a gentleman as Rupert Murdoch. It is arguable, for example, that the most influential American in history is a little wriggler called Treponema pallidum, and the most influential Asian our old friend Yersinia pestis.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

News 2020

Muslims may lack biodegradability, survey finds

Radical Islam may constitute a greater danger to the environment than previously thought, according to a new survey.

The survey, which was carried out in the Baghdad Free State by personnel from Halliburton Excelsior Yellowcake-Bechtel Uranium Depletionisation, shows that certain types of Muslim are less biodegradable than had been anticipated.

"We're finding a lot of hajis who underwent detrimentalisation fifteen or twenty years ago that are still radioactive today," said survey team motivation enhancement operative Elmer Stoolglow.

The radioactivity is worst in areas which were most heavily democratised during the liberation of the former Iraq earlier this century, the survey found.

Although no final conclusion has been reached, one explanation could be illegal nuclear testing by the mullah regime in Persian-occupied Iran. "We're looking at extensive testing of advanced nuclear weapons underneath a virtually sovereign country in the process of giving assisted birth to a vulnerable child of democracy," Mr Stoolglow said.

"If they were doing that kind of stuff fifteen years ago and targeting it on the freedomised, who's to say what kind of hitting power they have now? Based on these findings, I'd say we have to kick some hijab fast before some real people get hurt."

A spokesperson for the US State Department said that the survey's findings were being "aggressively considerated", while the British Foreign Secretary praised the White House for its commitment to the environment and called on all religions to coexist in non-carcinogenic sustainability.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Liberation, Repatriation, Disanomalisation

The rules of the game are changing again. George W Bush has said three times in the last fortnight that he wants to close Guantánamo Bay. Obviously the Vicar of Downing Street's remarks about the camp's anomalousness have cut to the quick of his moral fibre. There have been no new arrivals since September 2004, and a hundred and twenty of the present guests are scheduled for repatriation. A whole ten prisoners have already been charged by the military tribunals, so clearly all has not been in vain.

Still, there might be problems in the offing. Some of the prisoners come from countries where torture is less anomalous than in the civilised world, and the United States, Britain and the European Community certainly do not intend to endanger their citizens further by granting asylum to a few hundred innocent men. Five Chinese Muslims eventually found freedom in Albania last month, but it seems unlikely that weaker and more vulnerable countries, such as the US and Britain, will be able to emulate Albania's compassionate policy.

There may also be difficulties in bringing to trial those numerous cases where the US authorities know beyond doubt that the prisoners are guilty on the basis of incontrovertible evidence which cannot be shared. Civil courts are occasionally somewhat picky about evidence which one side refuses to divulge; and no doubt a slick civil liberties lawyer could imply that the secrecy resulted from something more sinister than the administration's habitual and laudable concern for national security. Military courts, on the other hand "given Guantánamo's history ... may not be seen as legitimate by other countries", according to one prisoner's lawyer. Since the whole idea of closing the place is a matter of public relations, this seems a somewhat fatal disadvantage.

However, the US has plenty of other detention centres scattered about the world, so it is possible that any prisoners who fall into a persistent non-disposable state can be removed to Poland, Romania or some other interesting location. If only those bureaucratic bleeding hearts at the Supreme Court would hurry up and tell George he can go ahead, I bet the disanomalisation would be proceeding apace even now.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Form E(V)/1

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Blogosphere During the Palaeolithic

The extent to which the so-called Palaeolithic blogosphere resembled our own is still a highly controversial question among experts, although it is generally agreed that, since everyone believed the earth was flat, the world-wide web could not have supported a blogosphere as such. Various terms, such as blogoplate, blogopancake and blogosavannah, have been suggested to designate the Palaeolithic equivalent, but none has yet gained general acceptance.

The rapid and convenient structuring of weblogs which is characteristic of today's blogosphere was almost completely absent, and it is generally agreed that participants had to utilise flint tools and do their own formatting. Given the general absence of home computers and the corresponding abundance of forest and jungle, it is likely that the weblogs were constructed out of actual wooden logs and updated on the palaeolithic telephone system via trunk calls.

Editing facilities were extremely primitive; although cutting and copying were both well known processes, the idea of pasting had not yet come into general use, resulting in oversized clipboards which had to be made out of mammoth hide and may have led to the creature's being hunted into extinction by highly organised teams of nerds. Editing was further hampered by the fact that the computer mouse had not yet been domesticated or bred into its present tractable form; the nearest contemporary equivalent being the sabre-toothed rhinocerous rat which inhabited the feverish rain-forests of what is now Basingstoke. Many of these rats have been found with their necks neatly broken in what was indubitably an attempt to attain a reliable clicking mechanism.

It is generally agreed that cave paintings did not form part of the world-wide web at this time, partly because they are notoriously difficult to save in appropriate formats but mainly because they could not be uploaded without considerable loss of definition. This was undoubtedly owing to the primitive state of instantaneous electronic communication during this period; in fact, according to some authorities communication was often scarcely "electronic" at all and was "instantaneous" only in the very loose sense achievable by highly trained runners carrying stone tablets by hand. Indeed, some experts have hypothesized that the nomadic nature of Palaeolithic tribes resulted from the slowness of their email facilities, so that it was quicker for them to move around and collect their messages physically rather than simply wait for them to drop onto the local henge.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Taking a Leak on the Customers

London, like most cities on the long, narrow island of Great Britain, is fairly near the coast. When you reach the coast, large quantities of water are a noticeable feature. The city of London has a large river running right through the middle of it. Large quantities of water are a noticeable feature of many rivers, this one (the Thames) included. Accordingly, moisture delivery entrepreneuriality Thames Water has imposed hosepipe bans on domestic customers, and has applied for a drought order, which under the present government would probably allow it to impose washing, drinking and sweating bans, even though no drought yet exists. Meanwhile, Thames Water has been losing eight hundred and ninety-four million litres of water a day over the past year because of leaks in the pipes, the condition of which is the responsibility of Thames Water. Thames Water's target was to lose a mere eight hundred and sixty million litres per day, but the target proved unattainable, for the second year running, because London is built on clay soil and, unlike many cities, has traffic running through it which means that Thames Water is unable to dig up the roads. Thames Water is "investing £500,000 a day; £1bn over five years," because "no-one is more disappointed than us to have missed the overall target". It is probably safe to say that the shareholders who will reap dividends from Thames Water's pre-tax profits of three hundred and forty-six million pounds are less disappointed. Certainly Jeremy Pelczer, the chief executive, who called the above-described "a good set of results" is not particularly disappointed. Customers who have to pay twenty-four per cent price increases, over and above the rate of inflation, may well be less disappointed than Thames Water, but I am not sure anyone has asked them. The moisture provision industry regulator, Ofwat, has called Thames Water's performance "unacceptable", which obviously will make all the difference.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

A spokesbeing for the Vicar of Downing Street has rebuffed allegations by Terry Grange, the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on violent crime, that the government is pandering to a tabloid agenda or making policy on the hoof.

As to the latter charge, the very idea is ridiculous. "If we had said we are going to introduce Megan's law today that would have been policymaking on the hoof," the Vicar's spokesbeing said. This is certainly rebuffatory. Megan's law is an American law which allows parents access to information about paedophiles who might be living near them, so that they can allow their children to associate only with adults who haven't been caught. The Home Secretary, John Reid, has sent an underling to the greatest country in the world to see how well Megan's law works. If it doesn't work, I imagine Dr Reid will be scrawling out the British equivalent - Sarah's law, as it has been pro-actively pre-christened - on the back of an envelope before the week is out. But it won't be policymaking on the hoof, because they didn't announce it today.

Dr Reid's coalition partner, David Davis, has welcomed the idea of sending someone to the land of tar and feathers because "there are very many different states each doing different things and therefore you can learn from it" because "we have to make a judgment based on our own circumstances", circumstances which do not obtain in any of the many states which are doing different things. Reassuringly, David Davis "certainly would not do it on the back of a campaign to get headlines". Certainly, the last thing any Tory politician would do is pander to the Tory press.

However, it appears that Tony's eagerness to please has got him into a bit of a pickle this time. Terry Grange told the BBC that "The reality, as I perceive it, is that the only people with any real strategic intent and understanding on where they want to go and the will to be ruthless in getting there is the News of the World. The government is attending meetings at the behest of a newspaper and then altering its approach overnight." Given the cosy relationship between his reverence and King Rupert of the Redtops, this hardly seems fair. One does not accuse Hitler of pandering to Goebbels simply because the two of them happened to have a few ideas in common.

Monday, June 19, 2006

And Justice For All

The native court which is trying Saddam Hussein for crimes committed during his time as a favoured Western ally has been asked to impose the death penalty. The chief prosecutor said that Hussein and two of his colleagues "were spreading corruption on earth ... and even the trees were not safe from their oppression"; presumably an allusion to the evil dictator's evil attempt to kill George W Bush's daddy, although perhaps a little over-charitable as to the latter's stature. "While many Kurdish and Shia Iraqis are keen to see the former dictator put to death for his regime's oppression of their communities," it appears, "a number of Sunnis see the court as carrying out the wishes of Iraq's US-led occupiers." Those Sunnis are a cynical lot, and no mistake. In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens when the verdict is formalised, I mean reached, and sentence is finally passed. If Hussein and company are to be executed, will it be a sign that the natives have not yet scaled those heights of humanitarianism which enabled the Coalition of the Entrepreneurial to invade; or will it be a sign that the personal influence of that great Christian, Texas' willing executioner, is making itself felt at last? And if Hussein and company do not receive the death penalty, will the Vicar of Downing Street and his angel of mercy, John Reid, descend upon the court to ensure that excessive leniency does not prevail? One would hate to think of other mass murderers, perhaps in government even as we contemplate our noble intentions in all their tragic awesomeness, getting away with horrible crimes against humanity just because of some fashionable concern over so-called human rights.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Commanders of the British Empire

In Tony's Meritocratic Emporium, honours are not reserved solely for party donors and the trackers of potential terrorist suspects. Riley Bechtel, whose company has been awarded contracts to profit from the London Underground, the Channel Tunnel rail link and the decommissioning of the Vicar of Downing Street's beloved nuclear power stations, has been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The Queen, whose innocence of political matters is touted every time someone proposes dismantling the gravy train for her ridiculous family, approved the honour a week after Bechtel won a four-hundred-million-pound contract to profit from putting together what the Coalition of the Willing had put asunder while making the world a safer place. The pretext for Bechtel's award was "services to UK-American commercial relations", presumably because not even Tony and all his minions could find a way of inveigling him into the House of Lords.

Other beneficiaries of his reverence's largesse include a vice-admiral, a rear admiral, a lieutenant colonel and two generals, all of them involved in Operation Iraqi Liberation, all of them members of the United States armed forces, and one of them none other than General Tommy "We don't do body counts" Franks. It is not clear whether all these people are Commanders of the British Empire; what seems reasonably evident is that when some people command, the British Empire jumps. The odd thing is that, despite there being, at present, "no suggestion of any wrongdoing", neither the Foreign Office, nor the recipients, nor the Vicar himself saw fit to tell anyone about these awards, even though Bechtel's was shoved across as far back as April 2003. Have none of them any pride?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wargwinch and the Weevil-Heapers of Old Rutland

Only during the reign of Burgelcrumley the Infantile, with the finagling of the local eisteddfods which resulted from the Mumbelminster Donnybrook, did the situation begin to improve; and it was not until the accession of Wargwinch the Multi-infarct that the last of the beezers were truncated in accordance with the will of the Rump. Wargwinch, whose tessellated cranbournes had long been the terror of the Rutland weevil-crushers, was notorious among the clergy for his bridling of Abbot Murdibole among the lower relics; but the depredations of Burgelcrumley had considerably reduced the power of the holy fanchions, to such an extent that when Archbishop Stropwimpel pronounced anathema upon several vole-gulchers who had been found guilty of walloping the buttresses by night, Wargwinch's consort was able to commute them to a swivet of drudgery with no more than a wave of her slipper. The incident caused controversy at court, with many of the more traditionally-minded favourites muttering in chambers, and a few even threatening discombobulation of the royal hattenstones, something which had not occurred since the disastrous attempt of Ardelbarge the Overrated to countermand the plunging of the baronial bollards seventy-three and a quarter years before. However, Busseltrough the wife of Wargwinch was an altogether different proposition to the mildly-bearded and politically micrognathous Ardelbarge, having been born into the rising clan of Hurlingbadger during the very height of the infamous Hurlingbadger-Heapingweevil War. This vast and largely incomprehensible family feud had, by the time of Busseltrough's marriage, been going on for some fourteen and a third generations, devastating the local countryside and bringing a near-total halt to all weevil-crushing and related activities in six counties. Although a strict interpretation of the law would initially have favoured the Hurlingbadgers, this advantage was vitiated by their unauthorised truncation of their enemies' mattocks during the summer before Wargwinch's accession, making his eventual verdict against the Heapingweevils all the more bitter to bear. This decision, undoubtedly influenced by Busseltrough, was to have momentous consequences some years later, when the Rutland insalubrities were at their least appetising and the kingdom stood in dire necessity of weevil-heapers.

Friday, June 16, 2006

News 2020

PM hardens benchmark in war on judicial wimpery

In a surprise move today, the Prime Minister denied that the Government was excessively lenient on criminality, and announced a new package of shake-ups to "expunge from existence the last traces of judicial quislingism" in the war on legal softitude.

The tough new measures will include a Public Reassurance Act specifying longer custodial sentences for anyone whose case is reported in the media, and will also formalise the current arrangement whereby the Home Secretary or Prime Minister can intervene to challenge any sentence they consider too short.

In what is being seen as a concession to the judiciary, the new legislation will also remove the judges' obligation to impose rigidly defined sentences for a particular crime.

"We will bring to an instant and utter termination the situation whereby a judge can be forced to impose a low sentence or a low minimum term simply because the law says he or she must," the Prime Minister said.

His remarks were a response to accusations by opposition leader Boris Johnson that the Government had "let paedophiles run rampant through the streets of England".

Mr Johnson condemned the Government for failing to stop police intervention in a spontaneous demonstration led by Sun editor Biankah Woad. The 27 demonstrators and 29 journalists were about to perform a "citizens' hanging" on a suspected future paedophile whose name and address Ms Woad had obtained from his classmates at her local Ronald Macdonald Primary School.

Non-custodial citizen sentencings have been permitted under the last fourteen Criminal Justice Acts to be passed since 2010, but the death penalty is defined as "to be used as far as possible absolutely only when necessary".

The Home Office says this is a safeguard against misuse of the law by lynch mobs, but Mr Johnson has accused the Government of "pandering to the spirit of the Human Rights Act", which Britain unilaterally abolished as part of its continuing journey to the heart of Europe.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Hole in the Administration

Michael Gerson, the Christian lunatic and White House speechification operative who gave us the phrase "axis of evil", has announced his intention to leave a hole at the centre of the administration. "There's no way to replace him," Karl Rove oleaginised in the New York Times. "He is a once-in-a-generation. He helped take the president on his best day and represent what was in the president's spirit and soul." The contents of Bush's spirit and soul are apparently unrelated to his unscripted pearls, being more effectively disgorged in such phrases as "Goodness, remembrance, and love have no end. And the Lord of life holds all who die, and all who mourn." Gerson wrote that particular section of Bush's spirit and soul soon after the attacks on 11 September 2001, and gave Bush the benefit of his theological insight: the attacks were "why God wants you here". He also "lobbied his boss to push forward with plans to spend $15bn on fighting Aids and other diseases", presumably utilising the time-honoured evangelical medicine of abstention until marriage and healthier profits for Glaxo and company. He believes that people will change their minds about the Iraq war once the next three years have given us something bigger to worry about. Having transcribed many of Bush's spiritual representations in a Starbucks near the White House, Gerson now plans to "concentrate on writing", and I am sure we shall all be the richer for it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Satanic Supplement

Actually,adv. See Basically.

Basically,adv. See Literally.

Creationism,n. The belief that the universe was deliberately conjured into existence by approximately the kind of entity a creationist can imagine doing that sort of thing.

Demon,n. A creature ostracised by churches and reviled by the pious. As one would expect, it also translates as genius.

Ethics,n. The excuses we devise for following our natural inclinations. Cf. Morals, the excuses we devise for falling in with the natural inclinations of those less feeble than ourselves.

Grondle,v.t. To caress or fondle with a grinding motion.
Their gropings and grondlings carried passion to new heights.
Babs de Rutcart

Individualism,n. The belief that people have a natural instinct for, and moral right to, the freedom to enslave one another.

Literally,adv. See Actually.

Negotiation,n. The means by which an enemy prevaricates while awaiting a military advantage.

Slander,n. Denunciation without remuneration.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Land Mines: This Evil Must Stop

The Righteous Army has investigated the Beit Lahia beach shelling and, as might be expected, found that Hamas is to blame. Six righteous shells were fired onto and around the beach, five of them landing righteously along a 250-metre stretch and one righteously unaccounted for. Purely by coincidence, a land mine, which Hamas had planted under the beach in case of a righteous Israeli landing, was triggered at approximately the same time, inflicting wounds which a Human Rights Watch investigator and former Pentagon official says are "primarily to the head and torso" - just as one would expect from an explosion underneath the body. In a malicious attempt to smear the Righteous Artillery, Palestinian doctors callously removed shrapnel from some of the wounded before they were taken to Israel for treatment. This would disguise the source of the wounds, since shrapnel from a Hamas mine would of course leave negligible scarring when removed from a potential terrorist and/or instrument of emotive anti-semitic propaganda. Meanwhile, an air strike on the Gaza strip has pre-empted a rocket attack by two militants. It is not clear how the militants and their rockets were detected; we must hope the Righteous Military used more reliable methods than they used when searching for that shell of theirs. Seven civilians were also killed and thirty-two injured, but it is apparently too early to tell whether Hamas had mined this area also.

Monday, June 12, 2006

An American Tragedy

One of the asymmetrical warriors who so fanatically fragmentised the happy atmosphere at Guantánamo Bay was due to be released, his lawyer says. The authorities had declared Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi "safe person, free to be released", but they declared it very quietly because they had not yet decided where to send him. Clearly, just because a safe person is free to be released, that doesn't mean he's safe enough to be released into the homeland; and of course Europe only permits such people inside its borders if they are being renditionised to some convenient spot where they can help the security services with their inquiries. It is not clear why al-Utaybi couldn't have been sent to Iraq, where such devastating progress has been made in teaching the natives the meaning of democracy. Asking the man himself where he wanted to go was out of the question, of course.

No doubt the authorities' motives were of the best. We all know how emotionally unstable these Islamic types can be when confronted with freedom; even four years of threat, degradation and imprisonment might not have been enough to acclimatise al-Utaybi to his culturally intimidating fate. If only his two roomies hadn't gone and persuaded him that a little publicity is worth dying for, he might have been one of a hundred and forty-one prisoners who are due to be released. It just shows what can happen when people don't trust poor, bumbling, big-hearted Uncle Sam to get it right in the end.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Anomalous Warfare

Three inmates of the Guantánamo Bay anomaly have committed suicide in a cowardly and ruthless act of asymmetrical warfare against their less cowardly and ruthless jailers. Two Saudis and a Yemeni were found "unresponsive and not breathing" and, now that attempts to resuscitate them have failed, are being treated "with the utmost respect". The anomaly's commandant, Rear Admiral Harry B Harris Junior, late of Operations Iraqi Liberation and Enduring Freedom, Harvard/Tufts graduate in Public Administration and Master of Arts in National Security Studies, was quick to place the deaths in perspective: "They are smart. They are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own," the Rear Admiral said, without mentioning how many of the anomaly's guards were killed or injured during the smart, creative, committed suicides. "I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us," the Rear Admiral said. I am sure we stand shoulder to shoulder with the victims of this latest terrorist atrocity, and await with due concern the casualty figures for the American side.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Shell Beach

The Righteous State has reduced the demographic threat to its existence by another seven. The Beit Lahia beach in northern Gaza was hit by some of the six thousand or so artillery shells which the Righteous Military have been firing into the area over the past two months. These thousands of artillery shells are a "response to armed Palestinian groups such as Islamic Jihad firing hundreds of homemade rockets into Israel", and have so far bagged fifteen potential suicide bombers, including five potential instruments of liberal-antisemitic emotional blackmail. The artillery shells which hit the Beit Lahia beach have been officially regretted by the Righteous Army, which "definitely would not target a beach full of people," according to an army spokesman. The Righteous Army has called a halt to the shelling, which will doubtless be resumed in reprisal for whatever unprovoked attacks on Israel the beasts on two legs will soon attempt vainly to justify by invoking this little mistake.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the fanatical fiend "whose three-year reign of terror cost hundreds of lives" - slightly fewer than the reign of the Coalition of the Virtuous, then - and "wreaked havoc upon attempts to bring stability to Iraq", whatever those may have been, has been intentionally detrimented by a couple of F-16s with five-hundred-pounders. The forces of freedom were able to strike this blow for democracy and order thanks to "the arrest and interrogation of Kassim al-Ani, one of [al-Qaida]'s commanders in the capital, three days earlier", which shows that even the Coalition of the Anomalous can interrogate a guilty man now and then.

The death of Zarqawi has been "hailed as a blow to al-Qaida", albeit relatively mutedly, and the Vicar of Downing Street himself has prophesied that the death toll in Iraq "isn't going to change with the death of Zarqawi - we should not have any illusions about this." On the other hand, the Americans "hope the combined impact of Zarqawi's killing, the intelligence gained from raids on suspected al-Qaida targets and the appointment of three new Iraqi government ministers, has the potential to tip the war in America's favour". Who cares whether or not people will go on dying when three new mannequins have been appointed in Baghdad and the war has been brought within potentially measurable distance of being a Good Thing after all?

Three other men, a woman and a child were apparently a price well worth paying.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Government Arms Dealer Writes

I was just walking along the road like, just minding my own business, and suddenly all these pacifists jumped out and started, like, harassing us and stuff, I mean, you know, doing harassment and stuff. It isn't safe to go out on the streets no more now. I mean before, right, you could do business in a civilised way, meet your customers out in the open, show them all the latest hardware, maybe machine-gun a few dairy cows for sport like, show the Indonesian minister for forcible humanitarianism a good time, British style. But now you can't even walk out your own front door without pacifists coming up to you and, like, saying stuff. Sometimes they even put stuff through your letter box or send stuff through the post like, so it gets harder and harder to keep your mind on, you know, what kind of hollow-point small-arms ammo would be exactly right for crowd control in Uzbekistan or whatever. I mean it can be really really difficult, you know, you're trying to flog an honest bomb and all the time in the back of your mind you're worried about if your wife's gone through the post and found something really nasty from a pacifist, or even a lot of pacifists, they congregate you know, they don't believe in war so they think it's safe to get together I suppose. Or if your kids are being exposed to, like, harassment at school because somebody's gone and used the Freedom of Information Act to find out your name and address and the amount of collateral damage that went with your last couple of sales. I don't think that's very democratic, myself, I mean it's not like an ID card or anything, it means your name and details, right, just going out to anyone who wants them. I mean that's not freedom, right? Not like what we're fighting for. I mean you try to tell people, right, you try to tell them that a gun is, like, only as bad as the guy holding it, and that guy could be, like, just a normal decent guy just like you and me like, so if the guy is decent the gun is decent and what could you have against selling a decent guy a decent gun, like, but they never listen. Or you try to tell them about making a living even, it's not like any of it's illegal, like, I mean I work for the Government you know, just like a nurse or a firefighter and you don't get pacifists harassing them, like, do you. And I mean like you can't go around living like a single mother on benefits or something, and if I wasn't doing it, right, somebody else would be, and maybe, right, they wouldn't even have my scruples, right, but they don't listen to that neither. I mean you do your best, serve your country and all, work hard and try and do your bit for your Ministry, what represents the best this country stands for in the world, and then all this happens. It's a bit depressing really, how they don't have any interest in your point of view like, the way they just harass you like, just come up to you on the street and harass you like...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

News 2020

PM kicks back at critics of anti-terror police

The Prime Minister has condemned the "media-fuelled circus of blamefest" which followed the shooting of a terrorist suspect by anti-terror police in an anti-terror raid on a suspected terrorist cell last week.

The suspected terrorist, who was later released without charge, was the fourth terrorist suspect suspected of terror activities to be wounded by police in the last two months.

In order to prevent undue strain on the newly-reformed National Health Service, the previous three terrorist suspects were instantly and utterly deported once they had received battlefield dressings at their local Sainsbury's walk-in clinic.

The latest suspected terrorist, who has not been named, was shot when anti-terrorist teams raided a house in East London where he was living with various members of his family. The family as a whole is said to be "under close investigation" following suspicions of health tourism and possibly inadequate Britishness.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with media analyst Bradley Ichneumon, the Prime Minister said that the police and security services had a very difficult job to do in the wars against terrorism and bad public relations.

"It is all very well to condemn the police when things go wrong," he said. "But just imagine what the reaction would have been if the police had acted differently and something terrible had happened. Whatever else one may say about the case, it is undeniable that this at least was prevented."

Asked whether a public inquiry would be held, the Prime Minister pointed to police statements that the terrorist suspect had been shot in a scuffle by his own grandmother on a reliable tipoff from a trusted informant. "Appropriate public narratives will be rendered as the due timescale fructifies," he said.

The Prime Minister also dismissed suggestions that anti-terror activities could lead to a backlash in the Muslim community. "Muslims are just like real people in many ways," he said. "They know that the scourge of terror must be driven from our shores so that the child of democracy can take root in the wind of renewal."

The Prime Minister said that he was behind the police and security services "one hundred and seventeen and a half per cent, with knobs on." At one point he told Dr Ichneumon, "I only wish I'd been there to kick some buttock myself."

Monday, June 05, 2006

They Don't Even Speak English Proper

The Prince in Waiting has extruded another pronouncement on Britishness and how to enhance it. He wishes those who have settled in Britain and who have "so far resisted learning English" to be required to learn it. This sounds sensible enough, but I wonder how many immigrants really have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the greatest language in the world? "I would insist on large numbers of people who have refused to learn our language that they must do so," his waitingness insisted, demonstrating what the English language can do when freed from the confines of speechwriters. "If someone is unemployed who doesn't speak English, they should have to learn English to make themselves employable. If you take preachers coming into this country, they should be speaking the English language and not refusing to speak the English language."

Just how many people are there in Britain who refuse to speak the English language? Is it not possible that, even after almost a decade of Blairite reforms, there might be some slight paucity of teachers; particularly teachers who will do a competent job at a price the average immigrant (say, somebody slightly poorer than Rupert Murdoch) can afford? Of course, his waitingness may merely be exercising due caution. If we outlawed mere inability to speak the language we'd have to deport half the population and eighty per cent of Parliament, which seems a bit draconian even for Blairism in its present and hopefully terminal phase.

The Prince also said that immigrants should be given an understanding of British history so that they could learn values of freedom, liberty and tolerance, which apparently do not exist in foreign cultures. Perhaps he could take a lesson from the Japanese, who will soon be obliged to indoctrinate their children with "an attitude that respects tradition and culture, loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them, and contributes to international peace and development". Patriotism in the Land of the Rising Sun "comes with unpleasant historical baggage", something that could never happen in the empire on which the sun never set; but even a small island people with a violent imperial past and a masochistic devotion to royalty might have something marginally useful to teach us.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ave Satani

The dean of Guildford Cathedral, where a set-piece in a mediocre Hollywood horror film was made thirty years ago, has attacked the remake, which was filmed in Prague.

The Omen (1976) depicts the destruction of a beautiful, powerful and rich American couple by the infant Antichrist. Supposedly, it "takes its inspiration from the Bible's Book of Revelation"; in fact, it incorporates a hilariously literal reading of Revelation 13 xviii, portraying the devil's minions as being marked with a sort of Satanic bar code consisting of three tiny Arabic numerals. The remainder of the plot's rationale is encapsulated in a little ditty not generally ascribed to John the Divine: When the Jews return to Zion / And a comet rips the sky / And the Holy Roman Empire rises, / Then You and I must die. / From the eternal sea he rises, / Creating armies on either shore, / Turning man against his brother / 'Til man exists no more. The Common Market served as the Holy Roman Empire, as I recall. The plot itself consists largely of set-piece demises and culminates in the adoption of the infernal tyke by the President of the United States. On the credit side, the film does have a superb, riveting Black Mass score by Jerry Goldsmith; but its other virtues are purely market-oriented. The remake, which opens on 6 June 2006 (geddit?) is apparently "almost identical, shot by shot, to the original", doubtless a witty postmodern touch masquerading as imaginative bankruptcy.

The scene to which the dean of Guildford Cathedral takes exception shows the infant Antichrist having a fit at the sight of the spire. "It was a disaster, it should never have been done," said the dean, Victor Stock. "People who were a bit thick were frightened to come into the building ... I'm not sure if everyone is that clued up about fact or fiction." This is certainly disturbing. The idea that the Antichrist might object to the sight of a church is bad enough in itself. The ability to distinguish fact from fiction is hardly a necessary qualification for Christian piety; but where would our churches be without people who are a bit thick?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Lukewarm He Spits Out

The Vicar of Downing Street and spiritual adviser to the Iraqi people has had a private audience with the Pope. His reverence (Tony, that is, of course - Benedict is His Holiness) was in Rome holding talks with Romano Prodi, who recently managed to expunge Tony's chum, Silvio Berlusconi, from the Italian premiership and who will soon be denying Italian troops the opportunity of participating further in the liberation of Iraq. It is to be hoped that Tony refrained from asserting his Britishness by casting aspersions on Italian military prowess, since he is in need of some good advice on coalition government. As for the private audience, it seems the poodle and the eunuch have "lots to discuss". A Downing Street spokescreature said that "the Vatican is an influential player on the world stage and ... has a significant influence on international opinion". It appears that the Vatican is much as Tony sees himself in his dreams. His reverence is expected to inform his Holiness that "moderate religious leaders must work together to tackle extremism and terrorism", just as Tony and his own moderate religious leader, George W Bush, have been tackling extremism and terrorism in Iraq, adding perhaps a hundred thousand lucky souls to the celestial choirs and quite possibly advancing the dawn of Judgement Day.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Drastic Uncials

Although largely remembered for the abortive Fourth Great Outward Grope, which came to a sudden end when the feet of Fickelgrab the Contentious, which had been a constant source of grief to himself and many of his footmen, suddenly gave out at Buncaster, the era was perhaps more significant in that it was characterised by the first sustained efforts to dominate the Bagmolian mortices, thus foreclosing all fenwicks south of the ancient Dredhubbel Ramp. The fenwicks had long been susceptible to infiltration and pilfering by roving bands from the north; and despite the harsh laws enacted under Fickelgrab, which specified that anyone found guilty of "fiddlynge, fibrillatynge, fondlynge, or in any another wise fossickynge" the mortices or their wards should be forced to run the bungo-hurley before having his ears scuppered in boiling mole-fat, no detectable improvement had taken place. It was left to Fickelgrab's successor, Waddeltweeze the Whimsical, to subject the mortices to direct control by authorising his representative, the ruthless and irascible Hippingfudget, as Lord High Headbanger and Fossicker-in-fidelity by appointment to Waddeltweeze alone, to take whatever measures were found necessary to subdue the pillockry and prevent any further maceration. Hippingfudget, whose heraldic arms notoriously depicted a hessian caltrop, on a field azure, biting the fess of a sable, and whose bloodthirsty moustache was a byword for apprehension from Calkinduglet to Warbling-on-the-Becks, was nevertheless almost totally dominated by his wife, Lady Pharyngia, who was reputed to wear live bats under her girdles and on at least one occasion had locked her husband out of the bathroom in the presence of guests. It was probably on Pharyngia's suggestion that Hippingfudget essayed the risky and ultimately only partially successful traversing of the flitcrofts by way of cross-tippling the local barneys and damping the Dredhubbel, which resulted in a slight cessation of local cradocks but not enough of an improvement to satisfy the increasingly impatient Waddeltweeze. Angered at his lack of success and humiliated by his wife's continuing public slights, which included considerable noise in the mornings and sometimes extended to barking in church, Hippingfudget subjected whole tracts of the mortices to drastic uncials.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Debasing Our Values

In the wake of the unfortunate publicity surrounding the unauthorised collateral damage at Haditha, American troops in Iraq have been ordered to take "extra training in moral and ethical standards". The training will emphasise "professional military values and the importance of disciplined, professional conduct in combat" and will last for thirty days before the teenagers and twentysomethings are shoved back into the firing line. "As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies," said the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, with more than an echo of Luke 18 x-xiv. "The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few", like those who go in for indiscriminate revenge attacks, "do not tarnish the good work of the many", like those who drop bombs on cities, or send people to fight illegal wars.

A former army intelligence officer noted that "if your leaders give the impression that they think Iraqi lives are not worth the same as American or British lives ... you'll get the impression that that's how you're meant to behave." This seems a little naïve. It has been transparently clear from the outset that Iraqi lives are not worth the same as American or British lives. At a conservative estimate, about a hundred times as many Iraqis have lost their lives as Britons and Americans combined; one need only compare the amount of newsprint devoted to each group to see that the market value of Iraqi lives lags far to the rear. Indeed, by killing only twenty-four Iraqis in exchange for one of their own, the alleged unprofessionals of Haditha seem to have sold their comrade rather cheaply. We must hope that the correct market values can be properly implanted into the troops during their upcoming ethical edification.