The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Water Management

The Government's HIPS and EPCs scheme has come in for renewed criticism for failing to compel sellers to include details about flood risks. Since about ten per cent of new homes built in 2004 and 2005 are at risk from flooding, with the percentage set to rise as the risk areas widen, the lack of compulsion to tell buyers seems little worse than a simple market-freedomising prudence opportunification; but Daveybloke's Conservatives do not seem to see it that way. They have complained that the scheme is "utterly untrustworthy and misleading", qualities nearly as unsuited to estate agents as they are to Daveybloke's Conservatives.

The shadow Minister for Housing Shortages, Grant Shapps, showed commendable insight into human nature when he "warned that sellers were unlikely to include flood risk information in selling packs if it was not compulsory", but the Government's Department for Communities and Local Government said that information on flood risks is "widely available" on the Environment Agency website, which advises those at risk to move their cars to higher ground, "leave internal doors open, or ideally, remove them and store them upstairs" and consider putting "sentimental items" permanently upstairs. Perhaps the Government plans to compel future flood waters to rise sufficiently slowly to permit these wise precautions. The elderly are informed, in case they didn't know it, that "your first thought should be your safety" and are then hastily told that they should plan their own escape route and rely on "family or friends" rather than the Government, unless they have a disability which entitles them to contact the local authority and ask what help is on offer.

The Environment Agency's chief executive, Baroness Young, whose first reaction to the floods seems to have been the observation that they would make a fine excuse for water companies to raise prices, has received a fifteen per cent bonus, while the Director of Water Management and seven others have received bonuses averaging ten per cent of their salaries, which they presumably consider commensurate with the dignity of their titles.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Ray of Hope

Amid all the bad news from Iraq, there is yet one hopeful sign: applications by Iraqis for asylum in Britain are being processed with an efficiency which even the Daily Mail might find difficult to fault. Eighty-eight per cent of applications from Iraqis were rejected last year, on the grounds that, as the Ministry of Having Been Split In Two states it, "there has been a clear change in the conditions in Iraq and, with it, the factors to be considered when Iraqi nationals claim asylum". In other words, Iraq is now officially a democracy, and a fair chance of being starved, poisoned, irradiated, shot, car-bombed, suicide-bombed or collaterally detrimented does not amount to the same thing as being under threat of political persecution. Saddam Hussein was the one who did political persecution; and, in case you hadn't heard, Saddam Hussein was toppled by the US-led invasion in 2003. You'd think the Iraqis would have noticed that by now.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Serious Figurativity, Sartorial Consequentialitude

The Glorious Successor today continues his glorious combination of continuity with more of the same by issuing a ringing endorsement of British subservience to the global enforcer. The Observer notes that, having little instinct for political suicide at present, Brown is "unlikely to personally align himself so closely to Bush in the way Tony Blair did"; since Bush has lost control of Congress, the Senate, much of the Republican party, many senior military officers and possibly a few Democrats, there seems little purpose in proper political grovelling until January 2009. "It is in the British national interest that the relationship with the United States is our single most important bilateral relationship," the Glorious Successor pronounced; the reason being that "we cannot solve any of the world's major problems without the active engagement of the US." It's also extremely unlikely that we can solve them without the active engagement of China; but the advantages of a Pacificist special relationship are apparently outweighed by those of standing shoulder to shoulder with a major global polluter ruled by an élite clique which locks people up without trial and launches unprovoked invasions of other countries. The Glorious Successor notes that "Britain and America have always stood side by side in tackling the great global challenges of the past", as in 1776, 1812, 1914, 1939 and the Suez crisis; and thus "we will continue to work very closely together as friends to tackle the great global challenges of the future", such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation, which Britain and America have done so much to provoke; and climate change, which America is ignoring while Britain makes pious noises. Meanwhile, the Cabinet has been informed that the Glorious Successor is now "seen as a serious figure who is uniting his party and who dresses well".

Saturday, July 28, 2007

One of Us

The Government is investing spectacularly more in flood defences, according to the Secretary of State for Talking about the Environment, which means that water bills will have to rise to protect the profits of water companies, according to the Head of the Environment Agency. Of course, there is no disagreement here.

Baroness Young noted that infrastructure would have to be protected, and that "utilities will have to pay for this protection and undoubtedly they will have to pass that on to their customers" without unduly discomfiting their shareholders, their CEOs or their directors. She also "insisted that the Government, local authorities and other public bodies were also responsible for improving the country's flood protection and had to address several problems", and finally dredged up the undeniably plausible conclusion that "all public services need to look at climate change proofing."

Hilary Benn, speaking on Radio 4, utilised a cunning formulation of the Listen with Mother first person plural to bury the bad news about distribution of responsibilities. The Listen with Mother first person plural is notable for looking and sounding exactly like the normal first person plural while actually meaning the second person, singular or plural as necessary.

Benn first softened up the audience with the adult version: "We are going to have to adapt to a different world. There is no doubt about that at all," he said. Climate change affects everyone, though with minor differences depending on where you sit. Some will have to adapt to a world of flooded homes and occasional drowned corpses, while others will have to worry about where to invest their protection money. "That is why we need to invest more in flood defences, which is what we are doing," Benn continued. We in this sentence, of course, means the Government, Us as opposed to You, the great unwashed though occasionally flood-damaged.

"That is why," concluded Benn, shifting quietly into Listen with Mother mode, "we need to look at how we can adapt our homes if we live in areas where there is a risk of flooding." We must pull our squelchy little socks up if we want to be like Daddy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ho for the Hols

In a further decisive rift with the bad old days of spin, the Glorious Successor has dumped a number of announcements during the last forty-eight hours before Parliament starts its summer vacation. Aside from the announcement that the Pentagon is to be given an RAF base from which to scupper relations with Russia yet further, the Government also let drop the facts that Paul Myners, a cash donor to the Glorious Successor's hard-fought leadership campaign, has coincidentally been given a Government post, his fourth, as "chairman of the personal accounts delivery unity"; that allowances for MPs have risen by five and a half per cent, which is called "inflation-busting" when it happens to MPs and "inflationary" when it happens to nurses, teachers, firemen, etc.; that further increases have been recommended to the Prime Minister, which is doubtless a Good Thing; that ministers' use of cars has risen by a climate-busting eight per cent, and that members of the Cabinet would mostly rather fly to Brussels than use the Eurostar train service; and about seventy others. Oh, and Harriet Harman has been given the post of Secretary of State for Equality, with an Equalities Office at cabinet level from which to promote the new, non-Blairite, straight-arrow, no-nonsense, publictrustinpoliticsrestorative idea that saying something is equal to not saying it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Change of Style

Having run into trouble trying to station Star Wars Part XCIV in quaint little countries whose governments are accountable to their parliaments, the Bush administration has honoured the Poodle Archipelago with a "request" for a bit of silo-room with which to re-start the Cold War; and in his zeal to demonstrate the independence of his Britishness and the newness of his broominess, the Glorious Successor has done almost exactly what Tony would have done: RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate somewhere not very close to Downing Street, has been officially invited to bend over and spread its cheeks for the great space-age surge. The difference is that Tony would have announced it at a press conference, with flashing grin and a pre-emptive swipe at any evil, outdated, anti-American, Saddam-supporting forces of conservatism who might have thought a debate on the matter would be in order; Gordon has left the task of breaking the glorious news to Des Browne, the glittering new Secretary for War and the Colonies, who mumbled that by "supporting American efforts" in provoking Russia, "we are helping to build future protection for our citizens."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Human Rights, British Interests

As we all know, the British Government is concerned about human rights. We know this because the British Government talks about human rights a lot. The British Government talked about human rights when NATO was bombing the former Yugoslavia. The British Government talked about human rights when the weapons of mass nonexistence in Iraq turned out, mirabile dictu, not to exist. The British Government is concerned about human rights. A former British Government approved arms sales to Saddam Hussein, but the present British Government would never do anything like that. The present British Government has a list of countries which it has identified as "countries of concern". A country of concern is a country which is a source of concern to the British Government. The British Government's concern for such countries stems from the British Government's belief that human rights in such countries are not respected as the British Government believes they ought to be, at least by people other than the governments of Britain and the United States. Among the countries of concern are such places as Israel, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Colombia. There are twenty countries of concern on the British Government's list; and in its continuing concern for human rights, the British Government has approved arms sales to all but one of them. Among last year's notable achievements for British industry was the export of fifteen thousand sniper rifles, for defensive use only, to countries including Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and a theocracy less liberal than the one in Iran. The NGO Saferworld said that the last three of these customers were "of concern because the UK has no way of finding out where the weapons end up". Apparently there is a shortage of surveillance cameras outside the UK. In its concern for human rights, the British Government has also granted export licences for tank and aircraft components to Russia and China, and all sorts of goodies for the Righteous State. Progress on improving human rights in the Righteous State and the land granted it by Jehovah has, according to the Ministry for Lesser Breeds, been "limited". A Whitehall spokesbeing stated that "the government takes into account whether arms were likely to be used for internal repression or external aggression"; so we may be assured that the British Government displays its usual firmness in requiring undertakings from both arms dealers and buyers that the weapons will be kept out of any unpleasantness that may happen to occur.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Es Lebe Unser Heiliges Hollywood

The pious of all faiths have long had a penchant for indignant moral condemnation of theories they cannot understand, books they have not read and films they have not seen. A spokesbeing for the German Protestant church has now taken this brilliant tradition one step further by condemning a film which hasn't even been completed yet. The film is about Operation Valkyrie, the attempt by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and his colleagues to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944. It will be directed by Bryan Singer and will star Tom Cruise, so we can safely dismiss any suspicion of its being much good; but Thomas Gandow, the German Protestants' chief spokesbeing on rival religious cults, has called Cruise "the Goebbels of Scientology" and claims that the film "will have the same propaganda advantages for Scientology as the 1936 Olympics had for the Nazis". A conservative member of the German parliament, whose experience of Cruise in action is evidently of the slightest, says that "he uses his popularity very cleverly in the interests of the totalitarian sect"; but it is difficult to see how he will manage this in a film "based on a true story" and set in 1944, particularly given that Scientology was not invented until 1952 and that Stauffenberg himself was a Roman Catholic. All in all, it seems likely that any propaganda for Scientology which the screenwriters manage to smuggle in will be subtle enough to elude a target audience doubtless anticipating a moving portrayal of Stauffenberg as yet another heroic American fratboy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Handy Disposable Iraqis

From Dan Hardie via Rachel North, yet another indication of the British government's concern for the well-being of those who serve it; in this case, those Iraqis who believed all that guff about freedom and democracy, or those who are simply using their various skills to try and stay alive in the eternally improving security situation which the British government has done so much to help create. In response to the threat of death hanging over those Iraqis who have collaborated with British troops, the government has (a) told its embassy in Syria not to let in any Iraqi refugees; and (b) advised Iraqis who feel themselves at risk to "register with the UN refugee agency", rather than risk becoming asylum seekers in the United Kingdom.

Given our role in making Iraq what it is today, I don't believe this is quite good enough. Those who have worked for British troops at risk of their lives should not be told "'Bye, mugs," and abandoned to their fate. It is both imprudent and impolite. Leaving aside the ethical aspect of the matter, which will need explaining only to those incapable of grasping it, there is surely a certain short-sightedness in expecting trust, co-operation, even sacrifice from the subject races if we behave in this ungentlemanly fashion?

Please write to your MP and raise this issue. Read Dan Hardie's post, follow his links to the relevant news stories, and suggest strongly to your MP that these Iraqis and their dependents should be granted the right to reside in Britain indefinitely. Please be polite: MPs worth their keep deserve it, and the rest should be given no further excuses to ignore their constituents.

There is also a petition.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Breeding Obvious

The recently-appointed head of the Science Museum, Chris Rapley, has dared to state a somewhat under-publicised aspect of the bleeding obvious: namely, that if there were fewer people in the world, the human species would be less of a danger to itself and others. The Observer's science editor, Robin McKie, apparently felt obliged to get Rapley to deny that this meant "advocating genocide" and, armed with this denial, summarises Rapley's suggestion as "get rid of a few billion people", much as might that eminent human rights advocate, Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Rapley, "a passionate believer in man's influence on climate" rather than a rational scientist, makes the tactical error of mentioning "contraception, education and healthcare", perhaps the three words least likely to win him any friends in the current political climate; but he notes quite sensibly that a reduction in population "will mean less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere because there will be fewer people to drive cars and use electricity. The crucial point is that to achieve this goal you would only have to spend a fraction of the money that will be needed to bring about technological fixes, new nuclear power plants or renewable energy plants. However, everyone has decided, quietly, to ignore the issue." Indeed, I have dropped one or two hints on the matter myself, to deafening silence from both the pro-overpopulators and the Nobel Committee. Even the Optimum Population Trust, which "believes that Earth may not be able to support more than half its present numbers in the next century, and that the UK's sustainable population level in the 22nd century may be as low as 30 million", can only suggest using a nut to crack the sledgehammer: "a voluntary stop-at-two guideline ... for couples in the UK who want to adopt greener lifestyles". The advantage of this approach, of course, is that it would mean those who, later this century, get to watch their children starve, drown, or be killed in food riots and wars will be mostly the kind of fast-breeding idiots who are now helping to bring these blessings upon us; but there are more efficient ways to go about things.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Story of a Crime

A long time ago I saw a Hollywood film about a murder investigation, imaginatively titled An Investigation of Murder. I remember almost nothing about it, except that it starred Walter Matthau and seemed pretty seedy; but a little later I came across a paperback in one of the second-hand stalls which served to absorb the greater part of my income before the internet arrived. The paperback sported a picture of Matthau in a raincoat and a grumpy look, pointing an automatic at person or persons undepicted; the title was The Laughing Policeman Filmed As An Investigation Of Murder; and the authors were Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Apparently they wrote alternate chapters.

It averaged about one misprint per page, but the book made a far greater impression than the film had done. The authors, a married couple, were Swedes, and the story is set in Stockholm in the late 1960s. It opens with a terse depiction of an anti-Vietnam War demonstration being broken up by police outside the US embassy:

The police were equipped with tear-gas, bombs, pistols, whips, truncheons, cars, motorcycles, shortwave radios, battery megaphones, riot dogs and hysterical horses. The demonstrators were armed with a letter and cardboard signs, which grew more and more sodden in the pelting rain.

A little further on, the deadpan narrator mentions the policemen feeling up the girls as they bundle them into the vans, and the fact that some of those questioned may have suffered a little because one patrolman was hit by a bottle "and somebody must have thrown it." So much for democratic socialism.

The murder case in The Laughing Policeman is a spectacular one. Nine people on a night-time bus are machine-gunned, and the victims include a young detective from the Stockholm police, whose business in being there nobody seems to know. The difficulties in sifting the evidence are exacerbated by the doings of Kristiansson and Kvant, two six-foot blond patrolmen whose outward resemblance to recruiting-poster paragons is accompanied by superb, bone-headed incompetence. Eventually it turns out that the massacre on the bus is not just one case but two, and that in order to solve the more recent crime the detectives have to complete an investigation that was abandoned many years before.

The Laughing Policeman is the fourth in a series featuring the detectives of the Stockholm homicide squad. Unlike most series, it was planned as a whole: a ten-volume, three-hundred-chapter roman fleuve published between 1965 and 1975 under the collective title The Story of a Crime. This title has been omitted from the otherwise exemplary Harper Perennial reprints in favour of the more anodyne The Martin Beck Series. Sjöwall and Wahlöö were Marxists, and although they never thump the tub it is obvious that the crime in question is the hypocrisy of Swedish society, the abandonment of its most vulnerable citizens to pointless, ugly lives of drink, drugs and casual sex, and the corruption hinted at in that scene outside the American embassy. Later in the series, a highly successful businessman is assassinated during dinner at the Savoy hotel; as the investigation unfolds it emerges that the victim was something rather less than an adornment to the human race, while the murderer, though hardly an avenging angel, is an unfortunate individual who has some justification in blaming the businessman for the ruin of his life. Like Josef Skvorecky's Lieutenant Boruvka, Martin Beck tends to feel depressed and even ill after winding up a case; in the earlier books it appears that this is largely because his work keeps him away from his unhappy home, but in Murder at the Savoy (another anodyne title, substituted for a Swedish play on a chant about policemen and pigs), his personal situation has improved, and his depression has more to do with the human agony he has uncovered and the unfairness of the society he is employed to help function.

Although Beck is the main focus of the series, he is neither a lone operator nor an inspired renegade; besides constantly emphasising the amount of time and patience spent knocking on doors, dealing with bureaucracy, or simply waiting, the books are ensemble pieces which never lose sight of the fact that police investigations are co-operative enterprises involving large numbers of professional people. There is Melander, an outstandingly dull, uxorious pipe-smoker, notable for remembering everything he has ever seen in print and for being in the lavatory; there is Gunvald Larsson, a glowering ex-sailor with a liking for expensive clothes and cheap fiction and a penchant for kicking down doors and occasionally beating up a suspect; there is Kollberg, my favourite, an overweight, sensual, sarcastic glutton who is Beck's most trusted confederate, hates guns and displays ham-fisted rudeness and unexpected sensitivity in approximately equal measure; and there are the aforementioned Kristiansson and Kvant, whose inability to do anything right is matched only by their ill luck in repeatedly running across the choleric Larsson. There are others too, all of whom acquire extra depth and interest as the series progresses.

The first six volumes of the series are now in print, with fine introductions from eminent crime novelists; the seventh and eighth are scheduled to come out in August, and the last two in December. Maj Sjöwall is still alive; her husband Per Wahlöö died in 1975, shortly after the completion of the tenth volume, The Terrorists.

Friday, July 20, 2007

They're Innocent

The Crown Prosecution Service has struck a blow for traditional British justice by announcing that none of the three suspects in the alleged cash for alleged honours alleged scandal will be charged.

The CPS decided that the evidence which Scotland Yard has gathered about the three highly influential and well-connected people has an "unrealistic" prospect of getting a conviction.

A New Labour source said that the Government was "apoplectic". A source close to the prosecution, who apparently preferred to remain anonymous despite Alastair Campbell's long record of magnanimity towards those who disagree with his keepers, implied that the problem may have been ambiguity in the law rather than flaws in the evidence gathered by the best police force in the world.

The relevant laws, which are supposed to prevent corruption in Parliament, were drafted and passed more than eighty years ago by the institution which they were intended to regulate.

Tony Blair is reported to be "angry at the way in which the inquiry undermined his adminstration", particularly as no-one worth bothering about had tried to undermine it over Iraq.

Despite the dangers and hardships involved in the investigation, which cost £800,000 of taxpayers' money, the three highly influential and well-connected people involved were not shot, and the possibility that they might have confessed if imprisoned indefinitely without charge does not appear to have been explored.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Love Thy Neighbour

The transfiguration of Tony Blair seems to have proceeded according to schedule. His official role, as a major contributor to the present states of Iraq and Afghanistan, is "to help create viable and lasting government institutions representing all Palestinians" except those with whom the Righteous State and its Washington sponsor disagree; and to provide "a robust economy, and a climate of law and order for the Palestinian people". I don't know what Tony intends to do about imposing his idea of a robust economy on the Palestinians, though it might be fun watching him try to privatise the intifada; but the law-and-order agenda should be simple enough. Tony knows all about locking people up, and no doubt the Israeli Security Fence will provide him with a useful foundation for the further enlightenment and freedomisation of his little brown flock.

The Righteous State is being its usual helpful self, with a spokesbeing for Olmert bar Sharon ruling out a priori any discussion of "the three core issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem", viz. those issues which are the cause of all the trouble. Meanwhile, George W Bush has responded to his reverence's humble request for negotiations by calling for an international conference open to representatives of nations which "support a two-state solution and reject violence". Since this proviso eliminates, at a stroke, Israel, Hamas, Fatah, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Hizbullah, the United Kingdom and the United States, presumably someone is jesting. White House watchers may find it intriguing to ponder who; although not particularly tasteful, the joke is subtle enough to have originated with someone whose knuckles leave the ground occasionally. Perhaps it was Condi Rice, who "will join Mr Blair in Lisbon today", and will no doubt get along with him famously.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Car Trouble

Well, here's a thing: car travel has been getting steadily cheaper over the past thirty years, while public transport fares have been rising. The Conservatives' privatisation resulted in commuters having to pay more for their railway fatalities, while governments have happily encouraged the building of more roads and the use of company cars to keep the roads from being under-used. Surprisingly enough, the trend has continued unabated under New Labour, whose Minister for Pandering to the Motor Industry, Jim Fitzpatrick, today broke the bad news. Over the past ten years, "the cost of running a car has fallen by 10 per cent, but the price of bus travel has increased by 13 per cent and train travel has become 6 per cent more expensive", and greenhouse gas emissions have risen in one out of every two years during the Vicar of Downing Street's ministry.

Fitzpatrick's shadow, Theresa Villiers, conceded that there is "a good environmental case for encouraging people out of their cars and onto public transport" and observed, rather brilliantly, that "the increasing divergence in the cost between the two is not the way to achieve that", while a spokesbeing for the Department of Gridlock entertained with some statistics: spending on "public transport" has increased by more than fifty per cent over the past ten years, and "public transport journeys have increased by 7 per cent since 2000" - a whole one per cent for almost every year New Labour has been in power.

The statistics also attracted comment from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the shadow Secretary for Talking about the Environment, the chair of the parliamentary all-party group on doing as little as possible about climate change, and a Liberal Democrat. The CBI, which has helped run Gordon Brown for the past ten years, apparently was not answering its telephone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Silly Baggery

The Australian government has taken another great leap forward in fulfilling its apparent ambition to be a caricature of the American and British governments. A national Doomsday Fridge Magnet campaign four years ago has been complemented, if not surpassed, by a Doomsday Receptacle campaign aimed at the fortunate residents of Sydney. The Doomsday Receptacles are called Go Bags, a term which, at least to this native of the Poodle Archipelago, carries unfortunate colostomic connotations, and are being urged upon people as the latest necessity in the War on the Abstract Noun. A Go Bag should contain "items such as maps, running shoes, sunscreen and toilet paper", but pet cats can be left out and carried in a pillowcase instead. Persons fleeing the coming holocaust are reminded to turn off the gas and to check on neighbours, presumably to ensure that they have remembered to pack their own Go Bag.

A spokesbeing for John Howard's government denied accusations of a fear campaign in the run-up to the general election. Apparently the campaign, which has cost over eighty thousand pounds, has been planned for the last two years; so it is quite possible that it was conceived at a time when John Howard wasn't sure the civilised world could afford to risk losing him.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Simplest Solution

Daveybloke the Cuddly Conservative has achieved yet another achievement: he has at last found someone willing to run for mayor of London. Daveybloke has previously attempted to field such political heavyweights as Greg Dyke, such populists as Digby Jones, and such paragons of firmness and competence as that whining grey suit which presided over the Conservative party's decline and fall in the 1990s. None of the three was tempted, so Daveybloke has scraped the bottom of his fairly meagre barrel and lugged forth the game show luminary and professional twit for Henley, Boris Johnson.

The incumbent mayor, Ken Livingstone, paid tribute to Boris' obvious concern for the state of the capital and its citizens: "He did not bother to vote in the House of Commons to defend the Freedom Pass for free travel for older people. He did not even bother to vote on the Parliamentary Bill in favour of Crossrail - the most important transport project for London." As one might expect given such a record, Boris has promised to stand for substantive issues: "a greater London and for putting the smile back on London's face". Boris believes that "the mayor of London should keep things simple and direct his or her intellectual energy at the core problems that affect people's everyday lives", the core problems of the hoi polloi apparently requiring no more than a toss of the haystack and a hey-nonny-no to compel their instant disappearance and immediately engender a greater London with a smile on its face.

Daveybloke himself has shown in the past how seriously he takes Boris by making him shadow minister for Oxford and Cambridge, and Boris has repaid the compliment by making no impression at all in the post, which he has now resigned.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Occupational Therapy

Civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, who may be worried that the British government doesn't care about their welfare and regards them as second-order human resources, can take heart. The British government doesn't care about the welfare of British soldiers, either. When the Cold War ended, the interim almost-government which claimed to rule the country between the demise of Thatcher and the rise of Blair decided to take advantage of the peace dividend by closing Britain's military hospitals, rather than by scaling down Trident or anything similarly indiscreet. Apparently the success of the first Great Iraq Turkey Shoot in 1991 had persuaded the almost-government that the worst risk British troops would have to endure from then on would be a few unfortunate friendly-fire episodes courtesy of our greatest ally. As we now know, things have not quite worked out according to plan. The head of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association blames the NHS, which ought to save the Association's lottery funding from being pumped into the bottomless pit that is Olympics 2012; others claim that the treatment of occupational resources "violates the Military Covenant, under which soldiers are entitled to expect proper care if they are injured in the service of their country". What they are entitled to expect if they are injured in the service of Halliburton is presumably what they are getting at the moment.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Welcome to the Free World

Turkey's efforts to join the civilised world as led by Britain and its greatest ally have borne fruitcakes. The brilliantly-named Science Research Foundation, an Islamic creationist group, recently put out a six-kilogram Atlas of Creation which apparently aspired to disprove the theory of evolution by placing pictures of fossils and extant species next to one another. The group also blames Darwin's theory for "communism, Nazism and - under a large photograph of the World Trade Centre in flames - the 9/11 attacks", the last being a particularly delightful touch, surpassing even George W Bush's frequent implications that the attacks were the responsibility of Saddam Hussein.

"Hitler and Mao were Darwinists," said the Science Research Foundation's frontman, Adnan Oktar; "Darwinism is the only philosophy which values conflict". Since a scientific theory is usually a description of the way things seem to happen, rather than a scale of moral values, it is difficult to see where Mr Oktar has got this idea, unless Islamic creationists are as well-read and thoughtful as their Christian counterparts. It's true that Kurt Vonnegut once summed up Darwin's teaching as saying that "corpses are improvements"; but of course this does not necessarily imply a belief in the wonders of civilisational clashes, holy war, or even humanitarian interventionism. The necessities of evolution are equally well served if our less efficient contemporaries die from refusing blood transfusions or from trying to walk on water.

The Science Research Foundation, which seems as wealthy as most moral majorities, has been taken to court several times by believers in the atheistic superstition. The Supreme Court recently overturned a decision to drop criminal charges against the Foundation because of time constraints, and the Ministry of Education has been taken to court over references to creationism which have been placed in science textbooks, over and above the compulsory religious indoctrination which goes on in Turkish schools. The Minister of Education, Huseyin Selik, has said that omitting the doctrine of intelligent design from science textbooks would be tantamount to censorship. In a country where "insulting Turkishness" is a criminal offence, this sublime hypocrisy surely amounts to virtual Britishness.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Our New, Happy Life

The Glorious Successor has "promised the UN that Britain would try to secure a multilateral solution if the world faces a repeat of the Iraq crisis of 2003". The Independent's political editor, Andrew Grice, appears to be under the illusion that this represents a "break with Tony Blair". Those with non-journalistic memories may recall the case of Katharine Gun, who blew the whistle on the British government's attempt to bug the offices of diplomats from countries whose enthusiasm for the invasion failed to match Blair's high standard of abjection. Tony was perfectly happy to have multilateral backing for the Iraq adventure as long as it didn't inconvenience the Bush administration. By contrast, the Glorious Successor "wants to work through international bodies such as the UN but wants them to be reformed so they are stronger and more effective" in doing as they're told; on the other hand, he "does not rule out military action without UN approval as a last resort", so presumably he does not wish the UN to be quite strong or effective enough to prevent this. Brown also "believes having strong relationships with both America and Europe is in 'the British national interest'", a maxim whose damp grey mid-Atlantic vacuity might mark it as Blairite were Andrew Grice less certain of our glorious New Beginning.

In another spectacular break with the dead and discredited past, Brown "has not announced any change of policy on Iraq", although a cross-party commission set up by Channel Four and a think-tank has held hearings on the future of that sovereign, independent country. Andrew Grice quotes the commission's findings on crossroads, unique opportunities and ways forward. The rest will be broadcast by Channel Four tomorrow. Let's hope Gordon doesn't miss it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

For What It's Worth

Spamming is a thoroughly charmless activity. At best, it's a particularly boorish form of salesmanship; at worst, it is the internet equivalent of shouting rubbish in someone's ear while they are trying to have a conversation. An epidemic of the latter form has recently afflicted several people, including Fat Sparrow and Old Knudsen. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of comment moderation, they seem to be over the worst; unfortunately, Old Knudsen has come to entirely the wrong conclusion about who is responsible for the idiocy.

For the record, then, I do not spam people. I do not spam people for the very simple reason that, like most whose mental age has reached double figures, I can think of more interesting things to do with my time. I do not run multiple weblogs, and I do not have extra personae or "attack hags". I maintain exactly one weblog, this one, under exactly one name, my own. I have never contacted Old Knudsen about "a writing gig that was just a set up", and I am not a regular or frequent visitor to his weblog.

I have emailed Knudsen to this effect and he was courteous enough to reply, but it's clear that he doesn't believe a word of it. He says in his post that "it's a he said/she said thing", but he also seems to think he has evidence which puts the matter beyond doubt. Well, I'm sorry he's been pestered, and I'm sorry he holds me responsible; but he's wrong.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Phamily Phish

From: "daveybloke"
Date: Wed Jun 11, 2007 1:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: intimate connections for yuong married mothers

Dear freind!!!!

I am daveybloke i am Bloke of the Futture. i Beleive in Family i am family Bloke. We have the higest rat of family braekdown in Europe and we have the wrost Socilal problems in Europe. Do not tell me these thnigs are not connected for i am Daveybloke. We have the wrost social problems in Europe and we have Frist psast the psost Erectional System. Do not tell me these thnigs are Connected for i am daveybloke i am democratric Bloke and bleleive in our Mother of pralimanents. We have the worrst Soccial probmels in europe ands we have Mad e in America Benenifits adn soon Made in America hlealthcare too. Do notttell me thjese things are connected for i Am Daveybloke i am anti antiamericanism. we have woorst scocial problemms in eUreop and ploliitical praties too similar like Democarts and Republicarts rthnks to Gordon Bastard Brown stealing maggies clothes. maggie is my hero allong with churchill Ghandi and MArtin luther Kennedy. forsooth do Not tell me these things are Connected. i am Daveybloke i am Joined Up bloke. i wlould like to thnak my Colleuge Iaiain Duncandonut for all His hard wrok reporting that We conversatives beleive in Family. i beleieve in Family. i am Conversative Bloke. Do Not tell me these thnggggggs are not connected. i Am Daveybloke. i am future bloke. gordon Bastard Brown is on the side of the Past and Socilal Failure. i am Against the Past for i am Conservative Bloke. I am aagainst Social Fialure. Social Failiure is a bad thnig i am sure of it. Join us forces and fight aghainst Social faulure and the Past and prehaps one day You tooo wil also be Bloke!!!!!!

Yours incerely

daveybloke (me)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Carbon Offsetting

Macclesfield Borough Council has successfully intervened to prevent the expansion of Manchester airport onto green belt land. It's one of several attempts by local authorities and pressure groups to impose mob rule on the will of the people by mistaking mere public opinion for the hard, shining will of democracy. It is also a symptom of growing but illusory concern that the Government's plans to permit Britain's seventy-odd airports to do more or less as they please in the name of profit might not be altogether compatible with our vague-to-nonexistent commitments on keeping the planet habitable.

Meanwhile, the Guardian's environment correspondent has fun with burping sheep. Burping sheep, belching cows and other potential luminaries of the Parliamentary Labour Party are thought by somebody or other to be responsible for "up to a quarter" of anthropogenic methane emissions, and methane is "a more potent global warming gas than carbon dioxide", so the Government has started a research programme to investigate the possibilities of improving the creatures' diet.

Doubtless such innovative and decisive measures are the reason why the Government, in its Planning White Paper, can afford to "streamline" projects such as power stations and airports by removing mere public opinion from the process.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Squaring the Wheel

In an encouraging sign that the Reverend Tony's methods have not been altogether abandoned, the Department of Pandering to the Car Industry has released this pre-announcement of an announcement of another revolution in rail travel. This one is going to solve the problems of delays, overcrowding, suspect packages and "abnormal behaviour", as well as line shutdowns and bird flu. Mercifully, someone has called somebody's attention to the fact that double-decker trains would make it necessary to alter the height of every tunnel and bridge on the line; so longer trains, running closer behind one another, are being considered instead. Eventually we can just have one single, endless chain of carriages stretching from the Channel to the Scottish border. In order to keep it economical and help save the planet, no locomotives will be used and the carriages will not move; but passengers will be at liberty to utilise the central aisle for walking whatever distance seems convenient. Officials have accompanied the pre-announcement of the announcement with a pre-warning of a warning: namely, that these improvements will come at a price. Of course the price will not be paid by the Government, let alone by the private companies which have brought our railways to their present grievous state. The price will be paid by the passengers, whose seats will be removed from busy trains so that they can be packed in even more closely, and who will have to pay higher fares "to encourage travel outside the rush hour", travel during the rush hour being an unpardonable self-indulgence which commuters must be forced to outgrow. The expectation of the pre-announcement is that the announcement will also announce that "savings could be made by further cutting back maintenance on the least used rural lines", train travel to and from rural districts being another unpardonable self-indulgence. It is fortunate that the pre-announcement of the announcement announces the announcement of enviro-cuddly trains "using biofuels and even hydrogen power", since hopefully these will go some way towards offsetting the emissions from all the cars moving back and forth between those places which no longer have a railway service and those where standing room on a train is too expensive to afford.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Pride and Confidence

Some modernising elements of Japanese society have decided to take a leaf out of Gordon Brown's book of courage and stop apologising for empire. The education ministry has ordered the publishers of high-school textbooks to remove references to the actions of the Imperial Japanese Army in Okinawa, where a number of civilians were allegedly induced to indulge in acts of asymmetrical warfare against the United States. Last month, a hundred and thirty or so Japanese politicians called the Nanking massacre of 1937 a Chinese fabrication and claimed that the death toll had been vastly exaggerated. Even Tojo's granddaughter has decided she has a mission to restore "pride and confidence" by running in elections as an independent. "If my grandfather is to be blamed for anything, it is not that he started the war but that we lost it," she proclaimed, demonstrating an unconscionable cynicism about the civilising zeal which motivated the western powers. The rape of Nanking, as is well known, caused such disgust and outrage in the western world that the president of the United States called it "a date which will live in infamy" and declared war on Japan in 1937 rather than in 1941 as previously scheduled. An American congressional committee recently called on Japan to "acknowledge and apologise for forcing an estimated 200,000 mainly Chinese and Korean women to work in frontline brothels". During the American presence in south-east Asia, of course, the native women who serviced the troops did so purely voluntarily and in the interests of spreading democracy. Fortunately, the death toll of the British empire has never been reliably calculated, and in any case was a price well worth paying, particularly for those who paid it. Certainly, one rarely hears them complain.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I have been tagged by the Flying Rodent for eight random autobiographical facts. If they bore you, blame him.

1. I have studied five foreign languages, including a dead one, and I can't speak any of them.

2. Robert Aickman died on my twelfth birthday, though neither of us knew it at the time. Bill Hicks died on my twenty-fifth birthday, though neither of us knew that at the time, either.

3. I think that Marnie is a better film than Vertigo, by far. So is Brian De Palma's remake, Obsession.

4. My favourite Arabian Nights story is that of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Perie Banou, a preference I share with Ernst Jünger of all people.

5. I have never learned to drive.

6. I know by heart the dates of the reigns of all the kings and queens of England from Edward the Confessor onwards. I learned them off a wall chart from a breakfast cereal company, presumably in Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee year. As a party piece, it leaves a good deal to be desired.

7. Whoever has a birthday on the day I die, I wish them a truly rotten time of it.

8. I am dextrocardiac, but I don't know whether or not I have complete situs inversus.

Passing on the pestilence: Ed, Fat Sparrow, Kebz, Ion, Michael Greenwell, Ball Bag and Foot Eater.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Congress to Imperil Defence Budget

The lame pithecanthropoid's plans for a new Cold War may hit a bit of a snag next week, as it appears that Congress will vote to cut the defence budget to the tune of the amount required to fund missile bases on Russia's borders. The Senate has already done so, on the communistic and terrorophiliac grounds that the cost is too high, the technology is too uncertain, the threat from Iran (this year's ostensible basis for the whole boondoggle) is too unconvincing and the Great Freedomising Surge in Iraq has swallowed too much money already. Not only that, but the Czech and Polish governments still have not actually agreed to have the missile silos as their honoured guests, much less taken the proposals to their parliaments for ratification. Not every government in the world is sufficiently shoulder to shoulder with the hand of history to seek influence over US policy by cultivating a special relationship, it appears.

The Bush administration has argued that "it would be dangerous to delay because Iran may be further forward in developing its alleged nuclear weapon programme than the rest of the world realises, just as North Korea had been" when North Korea blew up a coal mine and some fish a few months ago. The North Korean nuclear arsenal is apparently slightly smaller than the one used against Japan by somebody or other in 1945; and, according to North Korea, is intended purely for "maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and surrounding region", just like the slightly larger arsenal held by the Americans, who also have God on their side. Nevertheless, the Bush administration has a problem. What a fragile little country America must be.

If Congress does cut the budget, then in order to be able to carry on playing with his new toys Bush will have to use his veto - overrule Congress much as he overruled the law over Scooter Libby, the real world over Iraq and the American people over the 2000 election - but that, it appears, "would put the whole defence budget in peril". Well, that should be fun.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Never Mind, We'll Just Change the Name to Sellafield

The Oxford Research Group has produced a report into the safe, cheap, clean, sustainable, cuddly potentialities of nuclear power. The report calculates that "for nuclear power to make any significant contribution to a reduction in global carbon emissions in the next two generations ... the industry would have to construct nearly 3,000 new reactors - or about one a week for 60 years". It is doubtful whether even the Reverend Tony's plans were quite so ambitious as that. In addition, stocks of uranium are likely to run low enough within the next twenty-five years that a further new generation of reactors will be required to cope with the shortfall. As an added benefit, this "will ... add immensely to the amount of weapons-grade plutonium being produced" because the new reactors will be fuelled with "plutonium ... of a type suitable for use in the most efficient nuclear weapons". Since the greatest expansion in demand will be in the world's poorest countries, then if nuclear power is to be the answer to our cheap, clean and cuddly energy problems, nuclear power will have to be operating in such cheap, clean and cuddly countries as Bangladesh, Congo, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan, as well as in the nine potential examples of freedom 'n' democracy in the Middle East which have "expressed interest in civil nuclear power".

Fortunately, the report will be of no interest at all now that the British Government is "consulting" (or, in Standard English, spreading its legs and waving the public exchequer at respectable corporate citizens) on the unmitigated wonders of a new generation of safe, cheap, clean, sustainable, cuddly nuclear power stations whose decommissioning they won't have to pay for.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The Japanese defence minister, Fumio Kyuma, has resigned over some remarks he made on Saturday about the recent American nuclear tests at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "I understand that the bombings ended the war," he said, with the same unerring historical grasp that once prompted Tony Blair to claim that we went to war over the Jews in 1939; "and I think that it couldn't be helped". He tried to wriggle out of it by saying later that he meant it couldn't be helped "from the American point of view", but this patronising and racist suggestion - that there are limits to American inventiveness and know-how - was rightly swept aside. Still, Kyuma has some style. He is a native of Nagasaki and represents it in the lower house of the Japanese parliament.

Monday, July 02, 2007

No Really, It's A Wolf This Time, Honest

It seems that the Simon Tisdall school of objectivity is now a little too abject even for the US military. Their latest drumbeat on the path to Operation Iranian Liberation comes complete with named army spokesbeing (one Brigadier General Kevin Bergner) and even a named Hizbullah source, Ali Mussa Daqduq, the circumstances of whose confession were doubtless just humane enough to elicit the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. According to General Bergner, an Iranian covert unit was involved in an incident at Kerbala last January when insurgents disguised as American soldiers managed to trick their way into a compound and cause a detrimentation in Enlightenment forces to the tune of five democracy enhancement personnel. The Iranians "had developed detailed information regarding our soldiers' activities, shift changes and defences, and this information was shared with the attackers," according to General Bergner. In the course of his full and reliable reminiscences, Ali Mussa Daqduq told his interrogators that the tricksters of Kerbala "could not have conducted this complex operation without the support and direction" of the Great Satan to the east. Coincidentally, US military intelligence, which was so informative some years ago on the subject of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, "reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity". Well, that certainly settles that. Now, if only we knew just why those fiends in Tehran might want to influence the outcome of a major war just across their borders, we might be in a position to start guessing at their reasons for hating our freedom and our way of life.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Wind Trouble

Greece is a slartibartfastian masterpiece. Like Norway, it is a very crinkly place. Pound for pound, it has as much coastline as any other country in Europe, and a good many islands as well - some of which are not breeding grounds for rare birds, homes to unique horses, or burial sites for noted poets. The Greek island of Skyros is all these things, which is probably why the Greek government, in collusion with the construction firm Enteka and the country's biggest landowner, the Orthodox Church, is trying to sneak through a project to cover the southern half with wind turbines, plus major access roads and supply cables running down to the sea-bed. Planning permission was sought more than two years ago, with no public consultation, and the project stands to make about ten million euros a week from the Public Power Corporation, which certainly speaks well for the motives of those involved. "Suddenly they care about insects and horses?" the head of Enteka said tactfully. "You show me a Skyrian that cares about the environment and I'll eat my hat."

The Orthodox Church does not seem to have commented, but its involvement could presage an encouraging new trend in the destruction of rare species. After all, it was Darwin's study of exceptional species on the Galápagos islands that first gave rise to the pernicious doctrine of evolution by natural selection. If it were possible to set up wind turbines in all such ungodly environments, and reduce the earth's species to the ones mentioned in the Bible, just imagine what an electrifying effect it might have upon the faithful.