The Curmudgeon


Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dirty Foreigners

Pause, if you will, and admire the peculiarly British genius behind this arrangement, one of many which - like the proliferation of finger-wagging warnings to turn off taps, put things in water tanks, and lower thermostats - go by the rubric of "environmental policy" these days. Plastic bags manufactured in China for such clean-living paragons as Tesco and Argos are shipped five thousand miles to the UK and then sent five thousand miles back for disposal. In one village, thousands of carrier bags "choke the waterways, snag on tree branches and contribute to a rotting stench during floods and hot weather"; elsewhere "small family-run businesses chop up and melt down toxic plastics and metals from discarded computers, printers and mobile phones", to the inestimable advantage of the countryside and the environment in general. Britain, supporting the recycling business, stated through the consulate that "individual companies should take more responsibility", which will make all the difference, no doubt. The provincial government, in a harsh throwback to Marxist interventionism, recently intervened to shut down some of the worst offenders; but, taking more responsibility, "most firms simply relocated".

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hope of Release for Hostages

The American hostage crisis took another sinister turn today as the Australian David Hicks was found guilty by a military tribunal of "providing material support for terrorism". Hicks, a former animal cruelty specialist who converted to Islamofascism in 1999, admitted training with al-Qaida and fighting with the terroristic terror organisation in Afghanistan for two whole hours. He also told the judge, in case the judge had insufficient evidence for it, that "the US government could prove its case against him". Hicks himself claimed to have seen evidence comprising "notes taken by interrogators from me", which is apparently the kind of thing that constitutes evidence in certain fanatical, barbaric and militaristic cultures.

In a surprise move which has wrongfooted many experts, the judge accepted Hicks' guilty plea and "limited" his sentence to seven years' imprisonment on top of the five years during which he was held in circumstances described by Britain as anomalous. The sentence was described by the military prosecutors, who certainly ought to know, as "substantially less" than the twenty years which had been threatened.

The Australian prime minister, John Howard, is thought to have agreed a face-saving deal with Hicks' kidnappers, which will enable the convicted provider of material support for terrorism to be repatriated, and to have part of his sentence suspended as befits such a dangerous criminal.

Meanwhile, the revelation that Bisher al-Rawi, despite being resident in Britain a mere nineteen years, had worked for MI5 has led the Minister of Foreigners Excluding Europe to decide that it may possibly be safe, or at least expedient, to let him back into the country. Margaret Beckett began "attempts to seek his return" in early 2006; with her customary efficiency, she has taken this long to reach an agreement with our number one ally so that al-Rawi can be repatriated, interrogated under the anti-terrorism laws, fingerprinted, DNA-sampled and databased. Let's hope he remembers to say thank you.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Satanic Supplement

Bravery,n. A warlike attitude of vicarious daring manifested by noncombatants and sustained by the newspapers.

Democracy,n. Dictatorship maintained by deception rather than force. Transformation of political debate into an arguably not altogether insignificant branch of the advertising industry.

Environment,n. The totality of our surroundings, on which we depend for our survival as a civilisation and possibly as a species. Something vaguely worth preserving in approximately its present state, insofar as this is not incompatible with political expediency and indefinitely sustained economic expansion.

Futile,adj. With no end in sight.

Lunatic,n. One whose delusions are out of fashion.

Misfortune,n. A preventable calamity which happens to oneself, or a tolerable inevitability which happens to someone else.

Power,n. Property which distinguishes those engaged in robbing us from those who merely wish to do so.

Necritable,adj. Impossible to write down accurately, just as words like gxhtbpkl are impossible to pronounce.
His response, distorted by drink and the absence of dentures, was not merely unprintable but virtually necritable.
Umbo Fragwort

Snow,n. Flakes of crystallised water vapour which fall from the sky in cold weather and form frozen greyish ruts on the ground, thus ensuring that British pedestrian footpaths are about as safe in winter as they are during the rest of the year.

Woman,n. An ailurocanine hybrid: the only creature capable of being bitchy and feline at one and the same time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

News 2020

Criminal actualitisation potential measures possibilitised

Potentially criminal children who fail to actualitise their designated tendencies could face financial and community penalties in later life under a measured new package of announcements packaged today by the Government in an announcement of measures today.

Under present legislation children merely have to pass three DNA tests at birth, 18 months and three years old, in addition to both parents' national identity records being checked for anti-humanitarian tendencies, non-respectful behaviour or misuse of liberty.

If all checks are satisfactory, the child is permitted to be inducted into almost any faith school of its parents' choice, provided the parents' academic records and sexual activities are to the school's satisfaction, for instruction concerning the perils of original sin, intellectual pride and consumeristic scientism.

Any child who fails any one of the tests is immediately deemed eligible for moral reclamation and is placed in the permanent care of the Youth Activity Betterment Action through Deoxyribonucleic Acid Based Anticipation by Data Omnipresence Organisation (YABADABADOO).

However, the Government believes that the organisation's policy of continuous surveillance of all potential suspects from initial failure until final inability to afford further care is insufficient to deliver the crushing victory which would bring the war against crime within measurable distance of winnability.

Today's packagement of announces includes measures to flexibilitise the response of the enforcement industry to non-active potential criminals and thus reduction the wastage of police time spent waiting for such people to commit crimes.

Children who are arrested or placed under an infantile disciplinary interdiction for official tracking (IDIOT) by an appropriate parental substitute, such as a military contractor or non-hate-preaching imam, will be penalised for attempted avoidance of genetic heritage if found guilty of malicious legality.

Announcing the commensupackage in Parliament this morning, the Minister of Redemption said that it was only fair to the taxpayer to ensure that the national criminality databases were accurate with regard to as near an appropriate percentage of the population as could be achieved in the current financial climate.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

The sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak is worried that too few people these days go creeping about their business in fear of eternal damnation. "Jesus came to tell us everyone is wanted in paradise," he said; however, against those who find the accommodation restrictive even the wishes of the Saviour cannot prevail: "hell, about which little gets said today, exists and is eternal for those who shut their hearts to his love". Affectionate chap, this Jesus. Nevertheless, our real enemy is not the one threatening hell-fire, but "the attachment to sin, which can bring about the failure of our existence", as when politicians consider giving rights to homosexual couples, or when the UN denies medical personnel the right to place their own lily-white consciences before the welfare of their patients.

During his stint as Grand Inquisitor, the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak gave us the benefit of his opinion on the devil: "a puzzling but real, personal and not merely symbolic presence ... a powerful reality, a baneful superhuman freedom directed against God's freedom." As a result, it has been found necessary to drag out a dean of theology to reassure those Catholics who have the misfortune to live in the present century that he didn't really mean it that way: "talk of devils with forks tended merely to foster fear in a way unfaithful to the gospels themselves" says Michael Paul Gallagher. Hence "Hell is better seen as a state of self-separation from God or self-exclusion from love", rather than as a result of, for example, Jesus having been faithful to the gospels in Matthew 10 xxxiii. Michael Paul Gallagher also observes that "it is a terrifying freedom to live a refusal of love and to live only for oneself" which - leaving aside the question of whether one can avoid living for oneself - sounds perilously close to treating the devil as a merely symbolic presence.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Blair Warns Iran After Failure to Trace Patrol

Tony Blair yesterday denounced Iran for its "unjustified and wrong" behaviour as it emerged that fifteen Iranian sailors and marines had not been captured in British territorial waters.

No Iranian troops have been discovered in British waters, despite Iranian concern about Britain's ongoing arrangement with the world's largest nuclear power, whereby Britain supplies house-room for American weapons of mass destruction.

Had Iranian troops been discovered spying on the American nuclear facility at Faslane, and had the Iranian troops included a woman, it is thought that she might well have been wearing a veil, which could have caused unnecessary upset to the Leader of the House of Commons, Jack Straw.

"I hope the Iranian government understands how fundamental an issue this is for us," the Prime Minister said.

The absence of Iranian sailors and marines is considered particularly ominous given the tense international situation between the civilised world and Iran, which during the past five years has invaded almost as many defenceless countries as Haiti.

Despite being bordered by Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, all of which are pullulating with weapons belonging to an oil-greedy country whose nominal chief executive has referred to Iran as part of an "axis of evil", Iran claims that its controversial nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

Britain has said it would use nuclear weapons only if it really thought it necessary.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Not a Whim or a Luxury

The former Minister of National Vigilance, David Blunkett, who promoted ID cards as a means to "protect our identity from fraudsters, stop illegal foreigners in their tracks, save billions being leeched from our welfare system and beat organised crime" - sorta like Superman, with an overtone of Sean Bean in Outlaw - has taken a job as chair of the international advisory committee for a security firm with the charmingly New Labour name of Entrust. Based in Texas, as are so many things to do with New Labour, Entrust "specialises in securing digital information and combating identity theft" and has formally registered an interest in Tony's Surveillance Makes You Free project. Entrust has offices in nine European countries, including here on the mainland, and is in charge of the software for the Spanish ID card system, which did so much to prevent the Madrid train bombings in 2004. A spokesbeing said that Blunkett, with his extensive experience of advertising ID cards to the British market, "is not involved in the UK side. His contract excludes him doing work in the UK", and we all know the reverence which New Labour ministers have for the law.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Foreign Interference

A British lieutenant-colonel attached to our boys in Basra suspects that a foreign power may be interfering in Iraqi affairs. Our boys in Basra are being attacked with mortars and rockets, and community leaders have told Lieutenant Colonel Justin Maciejewski that Iranian agents are paying Iraqis to do the dirty deeds. "All the information we are getting from the locals ... is that the vast majority of the violence against us is inspired from outside of Iraq and the people here very much believe that that is Iran," he said. Well, after all, what other explanation could there be? "Both the US and Britain have accused Iran of supplying armour-piercing explosive devices detonated by infra-red triggers, but they have been unable to prove it"; the Americans claim there are a hundred and fifty Iranian agents in Iraq "though this is impossible to confirm"; it seems we have been here before. Now, when could that have been? No, it's gone. Anyway, the Iranians "can't resist the temptation to make things difficult for the Brits", according to a diplomat, even though "Iran has a strong interest in stability", which the Brits have done so much to provide, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but in Lebanon as well. Despite the Brits' ever-so-special relationship with the thug state threatening Iran from east, west and the Persian Gulf; despite the recent decision by the Brits' Party of God to continue flouting the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; despite the obliging way in which the Brits and their allies have opened the borders to charitable organisations like the NCRI, those oily Persians just can't keep their fingers out of other people's business. Somebody ought to teach them a damned good lesson, no doubt.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tagging Offenders

The Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose is investigating some dire claims by the BBC about the practices of Group 4 Securicor Justice Services Limited, which is responsible for monitoring nearly seventy per cent of electronically tagged offenders in England and Wales. The BBC's Inside Out team recorded staff members displaying their pride in their work ("You think this company is doing good? It's crap. I tell you what, I wish the papers would get to know about it because it would shut them down within months."), their zeal for efficiency ("Myself and a colleague would sit there thinking, 'God, this just isn't right. We're taking off so many hours, surely we shouldn't be doing this.'") and a commitment to public service worthy of the denizens of a Calcutta call centre ("We don't know, we cannot retrieve the information ... They could have been in Barbados for a week while it is on 'missing' status; we wouldn't know"). A spokesbeing for Group 4 Securicor Justice Services Limited was on hand to deliver the usual recorded address about taking it all very seriously and an improvement programme being put in place; more interestingly, the chief executive of Nacro said that the findings were "alarming for those of us who believe that electronic tagging can play a useful role in offenders' rehabilitation." As far as I can see, the findings say nothing at all about the role of electronic tagging in rehabilitating offenders, any more than the recent BAE corruption scandal says anything about powered flight. There might just possibly be something to learn about the role of private profit in assuming or debasing the responsibilities of the state; but it is unlikely that the Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose will be amenable to learning anything of the sort. Indeed, it seems likely that the Ministry sees the BBC's claims as little more than a good excuse for putting yet more people in prison; otherwise it would be investigating the BBC rather than Group 4 Securicor Justice Services Limited.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Brown Stuff at the Olympics

Even though the Vicar of Downing Street is unlikely to make a speech there, the 2012 Olympics are at risk of being swamped in untreated sewage. The site chosen for the white elephant's trumpeting is near the Abbey Mills pumping station, known as the "cathedral of sewage", which deals with the largest overflow of waste in London excluding Charles Clarke and, like most of London's utilities, originates in the nineteenth century. A government advisory committee has warned of a "100% chance" of sewage overflows during the summer, and has suggested that it might cast a bit of a damper on events, presumably by distracting the olfactory nerves from the more edifying stink of mob perspiration, sporting lucre and sour grapes. The Government has therefore approved an eighteen-mile "super sewer" to prevent embarrassment. Like most things to do with the Olympics, the super sewer has managed to engorge its price even before anyone has started building it: last January the cost was estimated at £1,700 million, and now it is estimated at two thousand million. On the other hand, the estimated increase in the water bills of Londoners, whom the Government has dealt the honour of paying for it all, has been lowered from £45 a year to £37 a year. Doubtless this is a budgetary stratagem learned from the Prince in Waiting. It allows room for onward and upward manoeuvre so that, when the bill is finally settled at £44.99 a year, some sporting post-Gordonite chancellor can say that costs to the taxpayer have been kept below the estimate.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Information Retrieval

Having largely emasculated the Freedom of Information Act by allowing itself to refuse information on the grounds of cost, the Government now proposes to cauterise the stump by introducing what the information commissioner calls "new layers of procedural and bureaucratic complexity". The commissioner, Richard Thomas, believes that the present system is working well; worse yet, he considers it "simple, clear and straightforward"; naturally, the Government wishes to introduce reforms. These will enable bureaucrats to "count the cost of time spent reading, considering possible exemptions and consulting" (consulting whom? Saatchi and Saatchi? The White House?) when adding up the cost of information. Officials will also be permitted to aggregate "non-similar" requests within a two-month period, rather than only "similar" requests; in other words, different inquiries by the same person will be treated as though they were a single inquiry and used as an excuse for answering neither.

The reason for all this anti-glasnost, according to the Lord Chancellor, is that "freedom of information is primarily for the public, not the press"; since the public do not gain information from the press, it follows that press inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act are nothing more than a waste of the Government's valuable time. Further, "it is the public's right to know, not the media's role in providing information, that is essential to openness". As long as the public has an official right to know, it does not matter whether information is provided; one might be reminded of Kafka's doorman in the fable "Before the Law", except that it is probably not New Labour policy to take bribes only to prevent the customer thinking he has left something undone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

That Mission Thing

The Leader of the Free World has celebrated the fourth anniversary of the crusade against the weapons of mass nonexistence by treating his countrymen to a five-minute exhortation to keep on dyin' or them bombs will be flyin'. Having caused a catastrophic outbreak of violence by sending troops to occupy Iraq, the Bush administration now intends to send more troops to occupy Iraq, "aimed primarily at reducing violence in Baghdad". Bush cautioned that the operation was "still in the early stages" and, as if that were not enough, "still in the beginning stages" as well. Possibly on account of these facts, the "new strategy" of doing exactly what has been failing to reduce violence since 2003 "will need more time to take effect". Bush noted that "it can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home", at least for a few slackers and publicity-hungry war widows and body-bag moms. However, "the consequences for American security would be devastating", with Iraq possibly turning into a terrorist haven. Of course this must not be allowed. If Iraq were to become overrun with car-bombers, suiciders and Islamic militants, well, gee willikens, we might start running into real problems.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I'm A Four-Per-Center

I hate telephones, and I despise the mobile variety. Mobile telephones are like children: the noise, antisocial behaviour and general unpleasantness caused by other people's is more than enough to convince me that I am better off without any of my own. Happily, thanks to the Guardian's intrepid research, it now turns out that this is "nothing to do with being very old, very young or very hard up, but a lifestyle choice" shared by a dizzying four per cent of those adults who, like me, are aged between twenty-five and forty-four. This elite "are badly out of step with a social etiquette that has been transformed by the new technology", but this is by no means the only advantage. "A study of US mobile users by Baltimore firm Context found that people tended to avoid contact with peers who didn't have them." If only mobile telephone users in the UK could be so scrupulous about the company they keep.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Finding Solutions, Refocusing Approaches

The Sectarian of State for Muslim Control has emerged once more to preach the gospel of the Venerable Tony as it applies to our Muslim communities. Ms Kelly has been meeting with academics and scholars from the said communities. Although they "came from different schools of thought and they represented a diverse range of opinions", by an astounding miracle of God's grace they all agreed with the Government that "we urgently need a new approach to tackling the violent extremism that seeks to undermine our society", though not the violent extremism which has already undermined Iraqi society. In a few weeks, once the back of the envelope has been filled, "the Government will set out a way forward", again.

Ms Kelly notes, again, that the "overwhelming majority in our Muslim communities" (they are not, you will note, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in our community) share the values of New Labour, said values being "the backbone of a pluralist society" whose political culture stretches all the way from the Venerable Tony to Daveybloke: respect for the law as embodied in Peter Goldsmith and various hopefuls for the House of Donors; freedom of speech insofar as the smooth working of Parliament is not disrupted by public opinion; equality of opportunity for those with similar incomes; responsibility towards others to the extent that it's good for business. A "tiny minority" seeks to undermine these values with "ideologies of hatred", the kind of ideology that wouldn't lift a finger to bomb a nation into democracy even if it had weapons of mass destruction. Such ideologies "have never broken into the political mainstream because the vast majority of the British public rejects their ugly message"; while at the last general election only seventy per cent of the British public rejected the Gospel of the Venerable Tony.

In the face of such fiendish foes, the Government's role "must be to support the law-abiding majority in confronting the ideology spread by extremists" by being "relentless in the struggle against the deprivation used by extremists to generate a sense of grievance". The July bombers did it because they were poor, it appears. They cannot have been proper Muslims, because "there is widespread consensus among Muslim scholars and academics that the extremists' arguments have no foundation in theology"; theology being absolute, monolithic and certainly not subject to change with the times. Accordingly, even though "it is not the Government's role to interfere in or steer religious debate", the Government is "proud to support organisations" which "welcome support in their efforts to stand up for the values they believe in". Pro-active non-interference is a wonderful thing, no doubt.

Our aim, as so often before, "must be not just to stop people committing violence but also to challenge the ideologies that drive them". And, as so often before, the mistakes that have been made in the past - oh yes, mistakes have been made - were simply the result of an excessive outpouring of virtue on the part of the Venerable Tony and his chums. They have, for example, "put too much faith in action, not enough in debate", and have been "guilty at times of trying to provide all the solutions"; having failed to realise that an excess of well-intentioned zeal can be upsetting in certain cultures. They have "sometimes fallen into the trap of setting too much store by the voice of a small number of organisations". To remedy this, the Government has "shifted funding to the organisations which are taking the lead by forging stronger links with other communities, providing high-quality teaching about Islam and standing up to extremist messages", rather than to organisations which are isolating themselves from other communities, providing shoddy teaching about Islam and failing to stand up to extremist messages. That ought to fix it.

"Where violent extremism seeks to drive us apart," Ms Kelly concludes, "we must work harder to overcome it together." Well, gosh, I never thought of that.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lobster Snuff

An Argentine butcher turned playwright has fallen foul of the Italian censor for continuing William S Burroughs' declared mission in Naked Lunch, of showing the reality behind what is on the fork. The action of Rodrigo Garcia's Incident: Kill to Eat includes the stringing up of a lobster on a nylon cord and the transmission to the audience, via a microphone, of the sound of its struggles. Apparently the idea is that we should all do our own butchering: "You need plenty of imagination, and I don't have it, to feel the fear of death as you open a can of meatballs with peas in the kitchen at home." Three plain-clothes officers broke up the first night, and the audience presumably scattered like rabbits. It's to be hoped that Garcia doesn't bring his theatre piece to Britain, where it can take over seventy officers to deal with one man and his placards. A theatre audience, even an avant-garde one, might well exceed the competence of the entire Metropolitan Police.

In commenting on the crustacean-protective police raid, Milan's animal rights assessor confirmed the priorities: "There is a law here which forbids exposing audiences to animals experiencing drawn out and useless stress," he said. "I know this goes on in restaurants, but there it is not turned into a spectacle."

Friday, March 16, 2007


After a week of labour so intensive as to border on the masochistic, Mike Atkinson at Troubled Diva has succeeded in compiling his collection of weblog entries for Red Nose Day. The publishers, Lulu, have generously donated their own profits, which means about forty per cent of the cover price will go to Comic Relief. Click here to order, even if it is called Shaggy Blog Stories.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What May Be Achieved By Not Trying

Well, here's a pleasant surprise: after being held in various secret locations and subjected to various enhanced-assertiveness interrogation techniques including the hydro-respiratory, one of the Guantánomaly's residents has apparently made a full and spontaneous confession, not only to masterminding the 9/11 attacks but to the personal detrimentation of the American journalist Daniel Pearl and one or two other things as well. In total, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is supposed to have admitted responsibility for thirty-one attacks or plans for attack; and that's only in the bits of the transcript which the Pentagon didn't censor. "It is not clear why Mr Mohammed would have wished to confess to such a wide-ranging number of attacks," staff and agencies muse, with the hair-raising implication that Mohammed might be engaging in anomalous warfare. Mohammed is, after all, "highly educated" - not a very good PR move in the present climate - and "equally comfortable in a government office or a terrorist safehouse", according to the September 11 commission. Doubtless it was the insidious effects of his elevated schooling which led Mohammed to compare his own terrorist activities with the relentless freedomising carried out by the Coalition of the Bunker-Busting, even though al-Qaida has probably killed fewer people. Nevertheless, now that Mohammed's confession has been obtained, after a mere four years of work, it should be clear to everyone that the advantages of a military tribunal, overseen by a trusty from the Bush administration, far outweigh any that a merely legal trial could possibly have. Quite aside from the expense involved, there would be long-drawn-out proceedings, an unwieldy reliance on possibly conflicting evidence, considerable potential for national embarrassment and, not least, the risk of providing terrorists with a recruiting platform which, with a bit of effort, might almost have rivalled the Iraq war for popularity and effectiveness.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Democracy By Appointment

The House of Donors has voted in favour of an all-appointed upper chamber, rejecting by a substantial majority last week's non-binding Commons decision in favour of an all-elected one. The Vicar of Downing Street's preferred option of a half-appointed, half-elected upper chamber was rejected even more contemptuously, by four hundred and nine votes to forty-six. "Hybridity is not a connection to democracy," said Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, herself an intriguing hybrid of public servant and profiteer; "it's a connection to constitutional uncertainty and electoral unfairness", disadvantages which apparently would be even more scrupulously avoided under an appointed House than they are under the present system. The Archbishop of York warned about "the risks of tampering with a centuries-old institution ... with widespread public support", thus implicitly comparing the House of Lords to the queer-bashing wing of the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by Charter 88 and the New Politics Network found that over sixty per cent of the public favour an all-elected upper chamber; fortunately the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has ruled out any prospect of a referendum, so there is no danger of the public gaining the impression that all this has anything to do with them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Warthogs and Other Beauties

The US defence department has rediscovered the advantages of the right to silence, in connection with the detrimentation by two of its pilots of a British serviceman who was standing shoulder to shoulder with them in March 2003. The Americans have refused to provide the pilots' training records, copies of their flight logs, permission to take statements from witnesses, the full report of the US investigation into the incident, or the rules of engagement by which American forces operate in Iraq.

There are, of course, any number of perfectly plausible and legitimate reasons for such a refusal. One might be that the US rules of engagement specify that pilots in Iraq are to shoot at anything and everything, without first checking whether they could be breaking a poodle's toys. Another might be that US defence officials suffer from a cultural blind spot concerning British courts' occasional reliance on evidence. In any case, it is reassuring to see that the Vicar of Downing Street, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office all take the matter so seriously that the constitutional affairs minister - whose political prestige is probably somewhere between that of the Department of Cultchah-Meedjah-'n'-How-You-Play-The-Game and Geoff Hoon's Ministry of Atlanticism-as-applied-to-Europe - was the one cranked out to "condemn" the Americans' attitude. She found it not so much culpable and irresponsible as "regrettable and disappointing", like a wet day at Wimbledon; it seems eminently possible, in the face of this onslaught, that the terms of the Special Relationship will remain as much to our advantage as ever.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cardiac Consequentiality, Consciental Clarificality

The Deputy Leader of the Commons, Nigel Griffiths, has resigned over the Vicar of Downing Street's devilish Trident - an action that under different circumstances might be mistaken for a symptom of incipient backbone. However, Griffiths' voting record speaks, or rather scrapes, for itself. Given that he has been "very strongly" in favour of such characteristic Blairite triumphs as foundation hospitals, top-up fees, the Surveillance Makes You Free Project and the Iraq adventure, while "quite strongly against" any investigation of the last, it seems unlikely that Griffiths' new-found vertebrae would retain much rigidity if Tony's coalition partner, Daveybloke, were suddenly to rediscover the wonders of Punch and Judy politics and place the Government in danger of losing the vote.

As Michael White points out, in his best gossip-column style, Griffiths represents Edinburgh South, which is rather nearer than London is to all those submarines. As one of Alasdair Gray's more disenchanted narrators somewhere points out, one of the reasons why a limited nuclear war might be rather advantageous for the great and the good in Westminster is the fact that the main targets are conveniently located at the other end of the country. As of 2005, Griffiths represents Edinburgh South with a majority of just over four hundred, and has evidently calculated that, as Michael White says, "he would prefer to remain an MP on the backbenches than be a minister at greater risk of losing his job".

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's Values Time Again

It appears that various malcontents - those who believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was not a Good Thing, and persons of that sort - are stirring up trouble about the condition of British troops returning from the fun and games in Iraq. More than twenty thousand servicemen and women, not counting reservists, are suffering from anxiety and depression; more than a thousand former soldiers are homeless; and at least seventeen have committed suicide. That is their choice, of course. In a nation with a less magnificent democratic tradition than Britain has developed since 1997, it is almost certainly fair to say that conditions would probably not be as favourable as under the circumstances certain conditions in Britain could be said to have been. Nonetheless, instead of rejoicing at the availability of private health insurance, ever larger PFI hospitals, and nurses with economically viable pay packets, troops who have received NHS treatment complain of waiting up to eighteen months, being left without pain relief, and being neglected on the wards. There are even murmurs of discontent at the approaching closure of Haslar Hospital, which will leave Britain - the European country which has immersed the most soldiers in the Quagmire for Freedom - as the only European country without a dedicated military hospital. This is certainly disturbing. It is clear that many of Tony's troopers have no proper idea of, let alone enthusiasm for, the values for which they have really been fighting all this time - much as the Independent on Sunday refers to "the young men and women who risk their lives for this country".

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sensitive Areas

Fourteen long-term guests at the Guantánamo Bay anomaly are at last being subjected to military hearings, which will establish whether it is expedient for them to be designated "enemy combatants", worthy of the privilege of being found guilty by a military tribunal, rather than suspected enemy combatants, the designation for which they have been imprisoned all this time. Journalists have been barred from the hearings because of what the Pentagon considers the politically sensitive nature of the evidence. Human rights activists claim that the real reason is the risk of renewed slander and aggressive evidentialising on the part of the detainees about secret prisons, assertive interrogation techniques short of organ failure and suchlike; or, in other words, the politically sensitive nature of the evidence. The non-sensitive parts of the transcripts will be released in a couple of weeks, once the Pentagon has edited out the parts which might cause offence.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Amusement is, of course, not a major priority on this particular weblog, let alone charity; but here's an interesting idea for next Friday's Red Nose Day. If you are a Presence in the blogosphere, are a British resident or expat, and have no qualms about appearing in a book called Shaggy Blog Stories, click the link for details.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Legal Beagle

Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.
Legislator, n. A person who goes to the capital of his country to increase his own; one who makes laws and money.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

The Vicar of Downing Street's counsellor on matters of earthly law, Lord Goldsmith, has possibly the finest legal mind in the country; or, then again, possibly not. His granite flexibility over the Iraq war has led certain uncharitable persons to question his independence from Tony's Government, in spite of his having been appointed by Tony to Tony's very own cabinet. Thanks to Tony, Goldsmith's flip-flop over the legality of the Iraq adventure was all forgiven and forgotten when it turned out that the war wasn't about weapons of mass destruction at all, but about getting rid of Saddam, because getting rid of Saddam was the Right Thing to Do; but further problems have since arisen. Goldsmith's intervention to prevent a corruption investigation of the arms company BAE Systems was justified on the grounds that "the wider public interest", in the face of an unspecified threat to the country's security, "outweighed the need to maintain the rule of law". Although Goldsmith explicitly stated that "no weight has been given to commercial interests or to the national economic interest", certain evil-minded elements were led to question his independence from Tony's government, in spite of the statement having been drafted in "consultation" with, among others, Tony himself.

Fortunately, Goldsmith has now done another flip-flop and decided that his "primary duty is to the law, never to political parties", and that his attempts to prevent reporting of certain matters concerning the Vicar of Downing Street's privatisation of the honours trade were motivated solely by the "risk to the administration of justice" and not by the wider public interest at all. This is certainly reassuring, since Lord Goldsmith was appointed by Tony to Tony's very own cabinet and has possibly the finest legal mind in the country.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Missile Gaps

The future of Britain's independent American nuclear deterrent, which has helped to keep Europe peaceful despite successive grave threats from Communism, the Common Market and Gorbymania, is being questioned by a cross-party group of MPs. According to their report, the Government has failed to inform Parliament about the cost of replacing Trident, has not justified the tearing hurry to make a decision now, and has not indicated who, in the present generational war for freedom against suicidal religious fanatics, the replacement is intended to deter. It is possible that the MPs have also been taken aback by Tony's recent leg-humping effort to gain Britain the privilege of being used as a launching pad for the Bush administration's Star Wars: The Sequel boondoggle (The Empire Strikes Back against the Phantom Menace), despite the Bush administration's obvious preference for Eastern Europe.

The report also notes that ministers claim Britain maintains a "minimum deterrent" without explaining what it means. This is obviously a spectacular missing of the point of Blairism, whereby phrases are selected less for any fancy semantic content than for sounding vaguely desirable in a context of globally considered fiscal prudence and responsively flexible moral responsibility. Hence the Government's declared policy of using nuclear weapons only in "self-defence", or in "extreme circumstances", or possibly in defence of "vital interests", or whenever God and the Pentagon consider it expedient to do so.

The Government is further taken to task for "failing to explain how its plans are compatible with its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation", particularly given that the Government has promised to reduce the stockpile of warheads without changing the number of warheads deployed by the Royal Naval Submersible branch of the American nuclear arsenal. It is not clear how this policy would make us more secure than Israel, which we are informed lives in a state of permanent existential threat despite having the only known nuclear weapons in the Middle East; nor yet how it would demonstrate a greater commitment to non-proliferation than Iran, which manages to be a looming threat to the region and the world despite being five to ten years from developing a viable bomb.

In response, a spokesbeing for the Ministry of Defence said that procurement costs for the Trident replacement would amount to "about 0.1% of GDP". So that settles that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Beloved Leader Fitter Than Ever

The Beloved Leader of the free world fought back to attain glorious health today.

A minor and temporary imbalance in the ineluctable vitality of the Fount of Wisdom's natural biorhythms was seized upon by elements of non-responsivity to the glorious global rebirth.

Despite efforts of the forces of unfreedom and antiglobalprosperityism to portray the Saviour of Nations' condition as dangerous, the Unique Embodiment of World Justice raced ahead inevitably into positive territory.

Spontaneous demonstrations of loyalty and gratitude were instantly observed to take place in the Friend of the Poor's spiritual residences in Wall Street, London and Tokyo.

It is expected that the Miraculous Restorer of Economies will rapidly recommence the full range of onerous duties involved in watching over and protecting the six billion Children of Prosperity who live and prosper under His care.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Phishing for Work

From: "huttonj"
Date: Mon Mar 5, 2007 1:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: we pay u to let them wrok

Dear Sir, Madam or Labour Supporters

I am Mr John Hutton. I am of the Depratment of Wrok and Pensions of Great Britain a dynamic upthrusting member of th Global Community. I have brought Wrok to 2 and half million persons got 900000 off benefits and lifted 700000 children out of poverty. This is clearly super butt not super enough and so I am asking Your hlep to enhance furtheration of the superness of the situativity.

A recently comissionned report by a Respected banker has reccomended extra ecxtra invlovement of Private and Vloluntary Sectoes in superness enhancement. We hop with your hlep to get more 600000 single parents in wrok. We of the govt. will pay YOU to fnid jobs for layabouts and give Exrta Extra Bomnus if you keep them there.

You Cnanot Lose. Money will come form money which wuould otherwise be Wasted on benenfinits. You Cannot Loose.

The respcetced Bnankers repport Says "There are clear potential gains from contesting services, bringing in innovation with a different skill set." Old fashioned skill sets msust yeild inevitably to the new and diffierent Innovative. Srevices must contest for potential Gains to become clear. Hard to hlep Jobseeker persons wlil be supportted by welfare Advisors for 3 year sentence so that the Revolving door does not close on thr wong side of the Tracks.

The Reprot (by a Respected Banker) says we have need "to develop a world-class contracting capability so as to ensure the government's complex social goals were met without compromising the robustness of the outcome focus."

i thnik that says it all.

Yours Faithfully

Mr John Huttton
(Trustworthy Pratner in Invesetment)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Britishness: Key Traits Revealed At Last

Yet another survey has found that "together, Diana, Princess of Wales and Winston Churchill represent the best of Britishness, as seen by the British". More than seventeen thousand people were asked to choose which of various statements they imagined described themselves, e.g. "I find the world a very interesting place" and "I always let bygones be bygones". Oddly, these two statements were linked to "curiosity" and "forgiveness" respectively, rather than to the more typically human traits of xenophobia and self-righteousness.

Since nothing these days can be done without involving a celebrity, each attribute was "represented in people's minds by an individual". As one would expect, "open-mindedness" was represented by the Greatest of Great Britons, Winston Churchill; perhaps, given his views on compulsory sterilisation for the unemployed, the natural supremacy of the English-speaking peoples and the eternal preservation of the British Empire, they had in mind his flexible attitude to party loyalty. "Fairness" was represented by Princess Diana, who was at least blonde. Given such standards as these, it is perhaps not surprising that "love of learning" was linked to Richard Branson and Carol Vordeman, or "creativity" with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Anyway, it appears that love, gratitude and kindness (Richard Littlejohn, Lord Levy and John Hutton, anyone?) were greater priorities for women than for men, and that women were "more appreciative of beauty". Men "ranked creativity higher"; as creativity was represented by Lloyd Webber and Damien Hirst, one hesitates even to speculate who might have been the icon for beauty. Both sexes gave a low ranking to "hope, vitality and persistence", which may surprise some.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Choicing Trade-Offs, Trialling Tranches

New Labour has decided to eschew "the old way of trialling policies on focus groups", which might sound even better than it does if trial were a verb, and to invite "a tranche of the electorate into Downing Street" and explore some views. Rather than an old-fashioned focus group, in which a group of people are asked to focus on a certain matter, a group of sixty people will be asked to focus on "three underlying questions in the policy review". The results will not be "prescriptive traditional manifesto commitments for Mr Blair's successor" - you can leave the legacy business to Tony - but will instead "set out the underlying dilemmas that will confront all future governments".

The underlying dilemmas include "league tables ... about customer satisfaction for schools, hospitals and local authorities"; requesting "frank reports" in which citizens will denounce local services; "incentives to encourage recycling"; and "encouraging neighbourhoods to come up with ideas to make their communities healthier". The aim, according to his reverence, is "to put citizens in the position of ministers and civil servants in facing the difficult and at times conflicting challenges which they face"; in other words, the point of the exercise is not to allow citizens the opportunity to inform the government of their wishes, as might be the case in some second-rate, gimcrack democracy, but to impress upon an ungrateful electorate what a hard lonely life it is at the top. His reverence observed that too many people believe the Government acts "for completely perverse reasons, just trying to make a hash of things for the sake of it". There is, his reverence thinks, almost a tendency at times for the public debate to go this way, and certainly the media debate, at times, he thinks, tends to do so. His reverence believes that "in reality, if the public were taken through making choices they would realise the trade-offs".

You see, to every policy decision there are advantages for some and disadvantages for others. The public has not thought of this. There is a trade-off, for example, in standing shoulder to shoulder with George W Bush while his forces turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Just think what might have happened if Tony had gone and listened to the crude, unthinking public on that one. There is a trade-off between the interests of the unthinking, nagging public - always yelling for more health care, more public transport, more pensions, just because they pay taxes - and the interests of real people like the nice men who are trying to make an honest penny from PFI hospitals, railway consumers, superannuation enhancement initiatives, City bonuses, missile defence shields, and the Olympics. There is, above all, a trade-off between what the nagging, ignorant, apathetic public wants, and what Tony knows is best. One day, perhaps, we will all appreciate that.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Love's Redeeming Work

The Church of England, representing the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and his only begotten Son, the Saviour of all who accept His grace, and the Holy Spirit, having decided that, whatever God may think about gay people, His divine opinion upon their acceptance or anathematisation is rather less important than keeping up the size of Rowan Williams' congregation, has been occupying itself with further weighty matters at the general synod. Television programmes have been criticised for "lowering standards of behaviour and exploiting the humiliation of human beings" while remaining more interesting to most people than an evening at church. There were complaints about "BBC news bulletins undermining respect for the prime minister by referring to him only by his surname"; of course it is only natural that a religious organisation should find a form of words more significant in undermining respect than some lies, a swindle or two and the occasional mass murder.

Concern was also voiced about "11-year-olds from cathedral schools being allowed to watch films such as the latest James Bond, Casino Royale, with its torture scene". One Dana Delap of Durham, despite bearing a name worthy of the company of Pussy Galore and Rosa Klebb, complained that one of her sons had been spirited off to see Casino Royale and that God had inflicted upon the other an obsession with Power Rangers. "Tell me the things that my children should be watching," she pleaded, with that brave independence of mind so typical of the faithful; unfortunately, the synod's idea of healthy viewing does not appear to have been recorded. Someone else objected to the "melodramatic excess" whereby Strictly Come Dancing singles out losing contestants. "To me as a Christian, the ethos is to seek and save those who have been losers," he said. This is a potentially fruitful area; the standard of competition on almost any game show might be raised considerably if the threat of being sought out and saved by a member of the Church of England were among the losers' forfeits.

Unfortunately, the synod rejected both the call for a Government investigation of programme standards and the call for "an end to the exploitation of losing competitors"; although for those members whose lives of good works and contemplation have left them a little uncertain about the communications revolution, a former BBC executive had some good advice: "Broadcasters want to know what you think. If you think a programme is exploitative let them know, but try to avoid using the electronic equivalent of green ink." Meanwhile, the synod has voted to set up "a research project to investigate the influence of the media on behaviour", which may one day provide an answer as to why, despite such monuments to theological illumination as the BBC's Thought for the Day, church attendance continues to fall.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Taste of Things to Come

The Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose has kindly provided a foretaste of life in a Britain where citizens' rights will depend on the whims and megrims of the national database system. Sabbir Ahmed, who was born in Blackburn of British Indian parents, was assumed to be Pakistani and held for deportation after serving two months for driving while disqualified. He was detained in Hampshire, which presumably accounts for the fact that his Lancashire accent was taken as an indication of foreign birth; and was unable to supply proof of nationality on demand because he had failed to take his passport into custody with him.

A spokesbeing for the Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose acknowledged that cases like Ahmed's have "been a problem in the past" (Ahmed was released in September, having served two months for driving while disqualified plus forty-eight days on suspicion of inadequate Britishness levels) and that "an individual will be given ample opportunity to demonstrate their entitlement to remain", provided they can demonstrate it without leaving the detention centre to which they have been spirited, perhaps before dawn and at the behest of a computer run by the IT trade's equivalent of Network Rail. "Yes, sir, of course you may go free, you and your family - just as soon as you've demonstrated your entitlement to remain given that your identity card corresponds to that of three separate Middle Eastern terrorists and that of your six-month-old daughter in the next cell-block to a drug lord from Uzbekistan ... Computer error? Come off it sir, we're not all incompetents in this country you know..."

The spokesbeing also noted that "resources dedicated to dealing with foreign national prisoners had 'more than doubled' since last April"; which, given the Ministry's record in such matters, presumably means that there is now more than twice the chance of this kind of thing occurring again. The spokesbeing also said that "new guidance had been issued to prison officers", and (my favourite) that "specialist teams had been set up in prisons to help identify foreign nationals". It is to be hoped that the teams of Britishness specialists patrolling our centres of miscreant redemption can tell a foreign accent from a regional one; but even if they can, the years of intensive training required to distinguish, say, a Yorkshireman from a North Korean may prove too expensive for the Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose to provide. When that point arrives, staff will be forced to rely entirely on the database and on their own judgement - the kind of judgement which recently identified five British children as foreign, apparently on the grounds that they were black and in prison.

At the moment, it is just about possible to avoid deportation by the eternally prudent expedient of being Caucasian; but one day even this may not be enough. When it comes to a choice between the evidence of their own eyes and the readout from a National Identity Database, it seems doubtful that staff at the Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose will be inclined to rely upon their fallible, fleshly, non-privatised organs of opticality.