The Curmudgeon


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Choices, Choices

As the Glorious Successor wines and dines the former chair of the Federal Reserve, doubtless with some exquisite, wafer-thin but deliciously minty after-dinner statistics to follow, an Observer/MORI poll has put the usual searching questions to the public. Gordon is "regarded as best able to handle a crisis" by sixty per cent of voters, "leads the most united team" according to fifty-four per cent, and is "best able to deal with the environment" according to thirty-four per cent. Twenty-two per cent believe Daveybloke will be more eco-friendly, seventeen per cent favour Ming the Moderate, and the remaining twenty-seven per cent - the second largest chunk - presumably favour None of the Above. Still, nobody is in any doubt that "Labour is on course for victory at the next general election", even though Daveybloke has promised to "be setting out an absolutely clear and compelling alternative to this government" and has pledged "to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £250,000", which may compel some, I suppose. No other policy issue is mentioned by the Observer or, apparently, was discussed in the poll. Perhaps the differences between Daveybloke's cuddly conservatism (war, privatisation, Boris Johnson for mayor) and Gordon's continuity with change (war, privatisation, upholding the freedom to protest) are too obvious to mention. Daveybloke does seem to take a smaller suit size.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cross Purposes

The US Navy is preparing to make extensive renovations to a barracks complex because it has the shape of a swastika when viewed from above. Aerial photographs appearing on Google Earth "revealed the buildings' shape to a wide variety of computer users", some of whom might easily have gone off and become Nazis just because the US Navy was associated with a symbol the Nazis appropriated.

"We don't want to be associated with something as symbolic and hateful as a swastika," said Scott Sutherland, Navy Region Southwest's deputy public relations officer. Indeed, there are few things more symbolic and hateful than the swastika. The swastika is evidently somewhat more symbolic than the Stars and Stripes which, no doubt by some malicious irony of fate, is displayed on many US Navy vessels.

The Wikipedia entry on the swastika notes that the term is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning well-being, and that the symbol is widely used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. "Damn those Hinduists, Buddhists and Jainists, and their hateful symbolism of well-being," say the owners and operators of Scott Sutherland, Navy Region Southwest's deputy public relations officer.

In a chilling prefiguration of rivalry between the US Navy and the Air Force, early aviators, including the Americans Matilde Moisant and Charles Lindbergh, carried swastikas for good luck. Lindbergh, of course, went on to become a Nazi sympathiser, Holocaust denier and conservationist. There is even a design of interlocking swastikas on the floor of Amiens Cathedral, which may help explain why the French sided with Saddam Hussein during recent freedomising operations.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Water's Fine

Our old, dear friend, Thames Water is back once more, with yet another demonstration of the smooth-flowing service it gives to all its consumers. Ofwat, the regulator, plans to fine Thames £1.4 million for "failing to provide its customers with an acceptable service" and £11.1 million for supplying inaccurate reports. "The size of the fine reflects the seriousness with which we see this situation," an Ofwat spokesbeing clarified; from which we may judge that the offence of bureaucratic inefficiency is approximately eight times more serious than that of swindling the customers. Thames Water's response also reflects the seriousness with which it sees the situation; it has threatened to take its losses out of its customers' hides the first chance it gets. "What particularly concerns us is this large sum of money could be spent directly on improving services to customers," the chief executive said; "but the only benefit will be to the Treasury. This makes little sense," far less sense than, say, letting Thames Water be just as efficient as Thames Water thinks fit. After all, while it may be true that "Thames Water's processes and systems meant that customers received poor service, and also missed out on payments they were entitled to", the missed payments amounted to less than half a million pounds in total - half a million pounds which was no doubt spent directly on improving services to customers, as is Thames Water's wont.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Lighter Side

Although it took the Vicar of Downing Street some years to make public his personal relationship with the Deity, his Glorious Successor has no such inhibitions. "Maybe it's because I am the son of a minister of the church," he said today, in partial explanation of his Big Tent policy of excluding only those who disagree with him: "my father always taught me you had to reach out to people and you had to bring people in wherever you could encourage them and then persuade them to support your views." Gordon's views are that he believes in "a society built by working hard, playing by the rules, fair play". These are Labour values; and they also happen, fortuitously, to be British values. That settles that, then. Anyone indiscreet enough to work hard for the wrong priorities, to play by non-Labour rules, or to hold ideas of fairness which have the bad taste to differ from Gordon's - be warned, for your days of Britishness are numbered. For my own part, I would cheerfully admit to being a lazy, anarchic cheat if it meant I was allowed to do without an ID card; but I fear that the sin of failing to be appropriately encouraged and persuaded may make for slightly more serious consequences.

Asked whether he intends to call a general election, Gordon "insisted that the Queen would be the first to know", ahead of the electorate, ahead of the Cabinet and ahead of Saatchi and Saatchi. Immigrant family or not, the Queen works hard, plays by the rules and has made no public objection to fair play; so evidently she is British enough to cope with the privilege.

Gordon also said that the Government plans to close a tax loophole which enables private equity firms to get away with paying too little. "Whenever there is a loophole that shouldn't exist we take action," Gordon said. "Since 1997 we have closed a massive number. Sometimes it is very difficult to do so because you have lawyers and accountants who are always trying to find these loopholes." Apparently it never occurred to New Labour to pay lawyers and accountants to glance over some of the envelopes on which its 2,685 new laws were drafted, so that the loopholes could be closed in advance. Well, perhaps it did occur to Gordon; perhaps that's what he has been sulking about all these years. He used the occasion of an interview with Mariella Frostrup to put a formal end to the sulk, claiming that in his youth he had been offered "free beer on the NHS". The punchline, it appears, was, "I'm sure it's still available." The Guardian's politics editor calls this kind of thing "a lighter side to his personality".

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bloggerheads Rolls Again

Tim Ireland, one of the those who suffered from the hurt done to Alisher Usmanov's itsy-bitsy feelings, has returned, via our very own Blogger, with a weblog dedicated to "investigating and discussing the circumstances that led to the temporary closure" of various sites hosted by the dauntless, intrepid ISP Fasthosts. Everyone in the blogosphere should be interested.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Strengthenising Britishness, Hospitalising Schoolery

The Glorious Successor has made his first NuLab conflab speech as prime minister, promising "a new direction" on health, education and crime.

Gosh. Another one.

On health: "my aim for the next stage of an NHS personal to you: for every adult a regular checkup on the NHS", harking back to the verbless touchy-feeliness of New Labour's glory days, when majorities were huge and men were Mandelsons. Also, "every suspected breast cancer case will be treated as urgent and colon cancer screening will be extended to people in their 70s". Who's going to do all the extra work? A bit more reorganisation of rotas may soon be necessary, I fancy; unless the NHS is to be used merely as a means of locating problems and then pointing people to the appropriate department of Big Pharma. But Gordon, fresh from the chancellorship of a New Labour government, cannot have had that in mind.

On education, "the prime minister also promised a more personalised service". He and his tent-mates have decided "that one-to-one tuition will be there in our schools... for 300,000 children in English and 300,000 in maths" and, dropping the verbs again, "for every secondary pupil a personal tutor throughout their school years - and starting with 600,000 pupils, small group tuition"; in this case, thanks to the Minister for Clapped-Out Human Resources, Ivan Lewis, we do have some idea where the staff are going to come from. Gordon also thinks it's time for a Ten-Year Plan to "make our schools, colleges and universities world class", despite ten previous years of education, education, education under Tony, whom Gordon admires deeply. Having world-class schools, colleges and universities will "make the biggest change in education in decades".

Gosh. Another one.

The police state will also be personalised: "we will provide handheld computers - 1,000 now, by next year 10,000 right across the country - cutting paper work so that officers can log crimes on the spot, stay on the beat and not waste time returning to the station to fill out forms". Perhaps the officers will be given personal tutors so they don't make too many typing errors and consign some misspelled unfortunate to prison or deportation.

Then again, perhaps they won't.

On New Labour's favourite theme of cutting back democracy, Gordon said that the executive would be made more accountable, and then offered the bizarre non sequitur, "That's why parliament will make the final decisions about peace and war". I can imagine the party whips ordering MPs to hold the executive accountable, particularly in matters of peace and war; but it is a little difficult to imagine the executive being held that way for very long, particularly by the shabby crowd of job-seekers and invertebrates which occupies much of the House of Commons.

Gordon also "pledged to strengthen people's liberties, to uphold the freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom to protest". It is not yet clear whether by "uphold" he meant leave alone, which is the only way in which any liberty can possibly be "strengthened" or "upheld" by a government; or restrict and remove, which is what Tony would have meant by it. Gordon also pledged to "stand up for our schools and hospitals", such as they are; to "stand up for British values" (God, Trident, America-is-our-greatest-ally); to "stand up for a strong Britain" (Trident, America-is-our-greatest-ally, war) - and not to let us down, which is jolly nice of him.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Most Grievous Default

That representative of the Eternal, that conscience of the nation, that uncompromising champion of intellectual honesty and moral rigour, the Church of England, has declared that "either overtly or by default, this country is still a Christian one". Overtly or by default - what a wealth of stern principle and spiritual sustenance is here contained! The principle in this case is that a Tyneside head teacher shall not be permitted to dodge the legal requirement that pupils in all state schools must be compelled to take part in "a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian nature", unless they happen to be attending a faith school which is attuned to a different superstition. Dr Paul Kelley of Monkseaton High School "wanted to change the way that religious education was taught, introducing tuition about a number of world views, some that involved faith and some that did not". The Minister for Faith Schools, Jim Knight, admitted that "The majority of schools do not have a religious character, and are not affiliated to any faith group", so naturally "all schools, faith and non-faith alike, must teach religious education as part of the basic curriculum". However, in non-religious schools "this will focus on learning about different religions and the role they play in today's world, not religious instruction"; hence the need for an overt daily act of worship the nature of which is, by default, broadly Christian. Dr Kelley has been told that his plans "would be popular", but that their implementation was "politically impossible" because our pious ministers, and the bishops in the House of Donors, would block any such idea. "If he is arguing for a way for individual schools to opt out of those bits of the act he does not like," said a spokesbeing for the Faith which at this moment is tearing itself apart over the question of whether to opt out of Leviticus 20 xiii, "that is not something we would support."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mahmoud: A Mad UN Jag

The hundred and ninety-two babes-in-arms at the United Nations General Assembly are doubtless fortifying themselves as the blackbearded, beady-eyed, cartographically-cleansing President of Iran is defiantly poised to raise temperatures amid a storm of bitter oppositionality. As the Iranian military unveiled a new ballistic missile, Ahmadinejad stated that "Iran is an influential power in the region and the world should know that this power has always served peace, stability, brotherhood and justice". This is obviously a blatant violation of American copyright since, as we all know, only the World Cop and its friends have any reason or right to further peace, stability, brotherhood and justice with the use of ballistic missiles. The Iranian missiles are called Ghadr, which is Farsi for "power" - a choice which will no doubt add fuel to the storm as embittered temperatures rise yet further on the shockwaves of political hysteria. If Iran were really interested in peace, stability, brotherhood or justice, it would have called its missiles something civilised, enlightened and Western - something like Trident, Minuteman or Peacekeeper.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Alisher Usmanov

Here is a copy of a post by Craig Murray, whose website has been taken down (along with those of Tim Ireland and, bizarrely, Boris Johnson) because the subject of the post is offended and very rich. Justin has the details.

Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal chairman, is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist

I thought I should make my views on Alisher Usmanov quite plain to you. You are unlikely to see much plain talking on Usmanov elsewhere in the media becuase he has already used his billions and his lawyers in a pre-emptive strike. They have written to all major UK newspapers, including the latter:

“Mr Usmanov was imprisoned for various offences under the old Soviet regime. We wish to make it clear our client did not commit any of the offences with which he was charged. He was fully pardoned after President Mikhail Gorbachev took office. All references to these matters have now been expunged from police records . . . Mr Usmanov does not have any criminal record.”

Let me make it quite clear that Alisher Usmanov is a criminal. He was in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail. The lawyers cunningly evoke “Gorbachev”, a name respected in the West, to make us think that justice prevailed. That is completely untrue.

Usmanov’s pardon was nothing to do with Gorbachev. It was achieved through the growing autonomy of another thug, President Karimov, at first President of the Uzbek Soviet Socilist Republic and from 1991 President of Uzbekistan. Karimov ordered the “Pardon” because of his alliance with Usmanov’s mentor, Uzbek mafia boss and major international heroin overlord Gafur Rakimov. Far from being on Gorbachev’s side, Karimov was one of the Politburo hardliners who had Gorbachev arrested in the attempted coup that was thwarted by Yeltsin standing on the tanks outside the White House.

Usmanov is just a criminal whose gangster connections with one of the World’s most corrupt regimes got him out of jail. He then plunged into the “privatisation” process at a time when gangster muscle was used to secure physical control of assets, and the alliance between the Russian Mafia and Russian security services was being formed.

Usmanov has two key alliances. He is very close indeed to President Karimov, and especially to his daughter Gulnara. It was Usmanov who engineered the 2005 diplomatic reversal in which the United States was kicked out of its airbase in Uzbekistan and Gazprom took over the country’s natural gas assets. Usmanov, as chairman of Gazprom Investholdings paid a bribe of $88 million to Gulnara Karimova to secure this. This is set out on page 366 of Murder in Samarkand.

Alisher Usmanov had risen to chair of Gazprom Investholdings because of his close personal friendship with Putin, He had accessed Putin through Putin’s long time secretary and now chef de cabinet, Piotr Jastrzebski. Usmanov and Jastrzebski were roommates at college. Gazprominvestholdings is the group that handles Gazproms interests outside Russia, Usmanov’s role is, in effect, to handle Gazprom’s bribery and sleaze on the international arena, and the use of gas supply cuts as a threat to uncooperative satellite states.

Gazprom has also been the tool which Putin has used to attack internal democracy and close down the independent media in Russia. Gazprom has bought out - with the owners having no choice - the only independent national TV station and numerous rgional TV stations, several radio stations and two formerly independent national newspapers. These have been changed into slavish adulation of Putin. Usmanov helped accomplish this through Gazprom. The major financial newspaper, Kommersant, he bought personally. He immediately replaced the editor-in-chief with a pro-Putin hack, and three months later the long-serving campaigning defence correspondent, Ivan Safronov, mysteriously fell to his death from a window.

All this, both on Gazprom and the journalist’s death, is set out in great detail here:

Usmanov is also dogged by the widespread belief in Uzbekistan that he was guilty of a particularly atrocious rape, which was covered up and the victim and others in the know disappeared. The sad thing is that this is not particularly remarkable. Rape by the powerful is an everyday hazard in Uzbekistan, again as outlined in Murder in Samarkand page 120. If anyone has more detail on the specific case involving Usmanov please add a comment.

I reported back in 2002 or 2003 in an Ambassadorial top secret telegram to the Foreign Office that Usmanov was the most likely favoured successor of President Karimov as totalitarian leader of Uzbekistan. I also outlined the Gazprom deal (before it happened) and the present by Usmanov to Putin (though in Jastrzebski’s name) of half of Mapobank, a Russian commercial bank owned by Usmanov. I will never forget the priceless reply from our Embassy in Moscow. They said that they had never even heard of Alisher Usmanov, and that Jastrzebski was a jolly nice friend of the Ambassador who would never do anything crooked.

Sadly, I expect the football authorities will be as purblind. Football now is about nothing but money, and even Arsenal supporters - as tight-knit and homespun a football community as any - can be heard saying they don’t care where the money comes from as long as they can compete with Chelsea.

I fear that is very wrong. Letting as diseased a figure as Alisher Usmanov into your club can only do harm in the long term.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Predictable Outrage

The bearded, beady-eyed, baby-basting President of Iran has further provoked the United States by asking to lay a wreath at the site of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, when America was attacked by terrorists.

The United States, which on 11 September 2001 was attacked by terrorists who were practically Iranian in intent if not in actual nationalismitude, reacted with predictable outrage.

Rudy Giuliani described the Iranian president as "a man who has made threats against America and Israel", including the threat to retaliate if attacked.

The last time Iran retaliated when it was attacked, a vicious ten-year war with Iraq was the deplorable result, for which Iran has never expressed contrition. If Iran had won, there is every chance that the pro-Western Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, would have been tried in a kangaroo court and then unceremoniously executed.

Giuliani also claimed that Iran is "pursuing the development of nuclear weapons", something Israel and America have never done, in case other nations should feel unduly provoked. However, tact is not a widely recognised feature of the Iranian psyche.

A State Department source considered the Ahmadinejad "request" to be a 600-seater, Islamic-green airliner of phlegm steering straight for the widowed and orphaned eyeballs of the freedom-loving twin towers of America's grief, resolve and right to bear arms.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Moral Investment

The parents of Rachel Corrie, who was vehicularly detrimented while supporting terrorism in Gaza, have been denied permission to sue Caterpillar Inc., the manufacturer of the mobile Arab clearance appliance which killed her. A federal court has ruled that Caterpillar, in which the Church of England holds shares owing to its partial decision to disinvest from almost any company which profits from the occupation of Palestine, cannot be sued because it would "bring the judiciary into conflict with the executive branch of the US government". The Corries, and four Palestinian families which have been reduced to manageable numbers by similar clearance-oriented incidents, argued that Caterpillar "knew, or should have known, that the equipment was going to be used to demolish homes in violation of international law in incidents that at times led to the deaths of innocent people". However, Caterpillar and the US government argued that "the machines had been paid for by the Pentagon as part of the government's military aid" and, as we know, all that legalistic checks-and-balances stuff is as piffle before the winds of the War on the Abstract Noun, not to mention the War on Selected Anti-Semitisms, the War on Holocaust Denial, the War on Potential Persian-Induced Cartographical Wipery, etc., etc. The judges argued that the matter could not have gone to trial "without implicitly questioning, and even condemning, United States foreign policy towards Israel", and that settles that. So while the Church continues its moral contortions over homosexuality, at least it won't have to do so under the shadow of its worldly goods being tainted by legal action.

Monday, September 17, 2007

If You Dither Long Enough, the Problem Disappears

The Murdoch Times has printed another story highlighting the dangers which face Iraqis who have helped the British occupying forces, while modestly claiming sole credit for inducing the Government to think about offering some of them asylum. The Times states that "the Government has been reviewing whether the Army's 90-odd interpreters should be offered sanctuary in Britain" (emphasis added); and it does not appear to have occurred to the Times, the Government, or Her Majesty's Opposition that there might be a few other ways in which the British forces have been aided by Iraqis, and hence a few more than ninety-odd people in danger of being dragged away and murdered. It would, of course, be uncharitable to suppose that the Government commissioned its two-month interdepartmental review in order to allow the death squads to reduce the size of the problem; but there does seem a certain lack of urgency. A pity the Government didn't exercise a similar capacity for long, hard thought before following the Bush administration into this bloody mess.

If you have not already done so, please write to your MP and invite them to the meeting on 9 October, at which the main speaker will be a British soldier who hired several Iraqis and is still in contact with some of them. Ask your MP to request the presence of the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and let them know that the press and the television cameras will be there too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Slippery Slope

The pro-overpopulators are on the warpath again. Jim Dobbin, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group and enthusiastic supporter of New Labour's police state, said that they will be seeking to cut the limit from twenty-four weeks to thirteen because thirteen weeks is "when the embryo itself is seen to be almost fully developed and you begin to see movement, the eyelids fluttering, yawning and touching". I can understand why, for their own peace of mind, an MP or one of the more relaxed members of the House of Donors might need to believe that anything which can open its mouth and twitch is a human being; but its merits as an argument seem a bit elusive. The All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group is circulating a questionnaire asking MPs "if they would vote to make it an offence to cause pain to the unborn child during an abortion". According to Evan Harris, a former medical doctor, "the neural pathways are not laid down before 26 weeks and even then it is not apparent that the foetal brain is capable of awareness"; but, perhaps expectably, the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group does not concern itself with such minor matters as brain development. Instead, they are asking MPs "if they would back an amendment to ban abortion because of the unborn child's gender, race, colour or sexual orientation", despite the fact that the pro-choice lobby has no interest whatever in any such amendment. Presumably the idea is to imply a slippery slope: if today we extend the limit to twenty-eight weeks, tomorrow we may be permitting abortions simply because the foetus might develop into another Ann Widdecombe. Think of the impact on our moral standing, our political culture, our national soul. Can we afford to risk not undergoing such a loss?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

How Else but Through a Broken Church May Dear Christ Enter In?

Despite having "shied away from being a moral arbiter" except when absolutely necessary for the purpose of keeping the bigots on board, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given an interview to the Daily Toryguff about the broken society we live in. He has met the Glorious Successor and has been informed that Gordon "has a real level of emotional commitment about global poverty", and that his political culture is "a bit more austere and values-oriented" than that of the Prime Minister who appointed Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams has also discovered that "politics is so much about human issues now," after many years of being concerned with non-human issues. He is concerned about the "level of desolation and loneliness and dysfunctionality" which exists outside his front door in Lambeth. Inequality, according to his interviewers, "is, in his view, just a symptom of a wider moral vacuum". He does not believe that the concentration of vast weath in few hands is the cause of our present moral difficulties; "it is more that society just wants to reward business success and celebrity. If you're a teenager in Peckham neither of those are easily accessible", teenagers in Peckham evidently being more morally vacuumed than most.

The Archbishop is worried that children "are pressed into a testing culture, or even into a gang culture," rather than into a confessional culture, or even a congregational culture; "they are bullied and manipulated until they fit in", something a faith school would never permit; "they never have any time to develop in their own space" and hence, entirely of their own accord, to find whatever God the Church of England would wish them to have.

Although he shies away from being a moral arbiter on Iraq - he does not understand suicide bombers, believes the war has made it easier for extremists to rally support, and doubtless considers violence a bad thing - he does intend to speak out against stem cell research, abortion and euthanasia. Stem cell research is "a human individual being created for a purpose", something with which the Archbishop cannot come to terms. He is against abortion because "the nation generally" doesn't care for it "as a back-stop to contraception", whatever that may mean; and doubtless also because it prevents human individuals being created for no purpose. He is against euthanasia "morally and religiously because I don't believe any of us has the liberty to determine the day of our death", such is the Archbishop's commitment to the rights of those who fail to believe as he does. He is also against euthanasia "because almost all forms of legislation for assisted dying open the door to unjust and destructive pressures on people", quite different from the just and constructive pressures which may be exerted to preserve the pain and indignity of the dying.

Asked whether Britain is a Christian country as well as a broken society, Dr Williams lapses briefly into reality: "If you mean a country where the majority of people are active churchgoers then we are not that sort of country. If you mean a country where the history, the institutions and the general climate is Christian, I think we are still that", thanks to the establishment of the Church of England and the resulting fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury is considered worth interviewing in the Toryguff.

Friday, September 14, 2007

We Shall Kill You And Your Children

The Murdoch Times, whose work last month was apparently solely responsible for instigating the Government's interdepartmental review on the plight of Iraqis who have collaborated with British forces, reports that the leader of Basra's security forces has warned interpreters "to leave Basra because these militia will never let them rest. They will kill everybody they know [who worked for the British]." The Times notes that "militiamen attacked and destroyed the home of one interpreter and narrowly failed to kidnap another. There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that a third had been killed".

The report concentrates almost entirely on the danger to Iraqi interpreters, but also says that "The Times has learnt that the Government privately accepts that it has a moral obligation to help them, but ministers are still debating how many of the thousands of other Iraqis – and their dependents – who have assisted the British should be allowed in".

If you have not already done so, please write to your MP and invite them to the meeting on 9 October. Ask them to request the presence of the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and tell them that the mainstream news media will be covering the event. It could make all the difference.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Believe What I Believe Is True

The Glorious Successor has continued his Big Tent policy of wearing a different size suit from his predecessor by having a tea-time chat with Margaret Thatcher. The Vicar of Downing Street also invited her in for fun and games during the early days of his own ministry; however, in his case it was probably just another celebrity photo-opportunity, the New Labour equivalent of having sex with Princess Diana. Gordon is an altogether more serious proposition; hence the tryst is being presented as one between "conviction politicians". Thatcher believes in putting people in prison, and so does Gordon. Gordon is a conviction polician. Gordon likes conviction politicians. "I admire the fact that she is a conviction politician," Gordon has said of Thatcher. "I am a conviction politician like her." It appears that in the political sphere a conviction or two is self-evidently desirable. The actual substance of the convictions may be left to the PR department or, at times of global emergency, to the White House.

Gordon has also praised the old bag for having "realised Britain's need for change", particularly in its methods of counting the unemployed and in its quaint, outdated, crypto-Stalinist ideas about utilities being there to provide a service to the public rather than a bonus in the boardroom. The Prime Minister's spin doctors also "insisted there was a social aspect to today's unlikely encounter" - they didn't just sit around in a tent discussing convictions. Thatcher "largely furnished the so-called 'bachelor flat' above No 10 and sources said that she wanted to look round the accommodation to see what had changed". Well, if that isn't worth a couple of hours of Gordon's time I can't imagine what would be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Condemned to Irrelevance

The "staunchly Roman Catholic" Polish government (it is not, you will observe, militantly Roman Catholic, any more than the government of Venezuela is staunchly left-wing or Hamas is staunchly Muslim) is blocking a move by the rest of the European Union to make 10 October a "day of protest" against the death penalty. "The Poles think it's very restrictive to talk only of the death penalty," said one source. "They want a discussion on a larger scope, on the right to life, on abortion, on euthanasia", and hence are prepared implicitly to condone one alleged abuse of human rights in order to facilitate discussion of the others. It makes at least as much sense as killing six hundred thousand Iraqis to get rid of Saddam Hussein; but the British Labour MEP Richard Howitt has said that the Polish government's "commitment to European values" is nonetheless in question, though it is difficult to believe that Poland has any less commitment to capitalism, bureaucracy and hypocrisy than the rest of us. The Polish government is "arguing for parallel European condemnation of abortion and euthanasia", those dreadful Nazi practices so staunchly opposed by the Venerable Pius XII; while the president has called for the European ban on the death penalty to be "re-examined", and a former deputy prime minister, who is presumably not quite so staunch a Roman Catholic as he might be, wants it reintroduced for paedophiles. "Our position is quite clear," said one official. "We want to discuss this in a broader context." Since it's a mere "day of protest" that is at stake - an event with approximately the seismic potential of Tony Blair's occasional whimpers about the Guantánomaly - perhaps the EU should accede to their wishes. We shall continue scraping out our foetuses and yanking our grandmothers' feeding tubes, and they can re-examine the need to string up a few priests, and we can all save the bunting for a "day of protest" against apathy, or whatever.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Huge Intensity

Politicians in the Righteous State have called for "a major military assault on the Gaza Strip", in addition to the one which has been going on for the past forty years, after Islamic Jihad fired a rocket into an army base, critically injuring a member of the chosen race. Eleven others suffered "moderate to severe injuries" and fifty-seven suffered lighter injuries and/or shock. According to the Guardian, the Righteous State has "repeatedly tried large-scale military operations to halt the rockets", and for no other purpose. "A series of military incursions last year left 400 Palestinians dead, at least half of them civilians, but", irony of ironies, "did not halt the rocket attacks". Doubtless in the same brilliant tradition, the Righteous Army "struck at an area used by militants for the rocket attack", presumably in the hope that the militants would be standing still and awaiting their comeuppance like proper soldiers. According to a Gaza health official, the retribution succeeded only in wounding four possible terrorists, including some potential terrorists. The Righteous State's Minister of Gentiles, Tzipi Livni, said that "it doesn't matter which terror group took responsibility. Gaza is totally controlled by Hamas, and it has the ability to stop this and decided not to," Hamas being evidently somewhat stronger than the armed forces of the Righteous State, perhaps because it has never had to deal with an existential threat from a bunch of nuclear-armed fanatics. "I think we have tools to do this, tools that are not only military," Livni continued; options under consideration include "cutting off electricity, water and fuel supplies", thus making Gaza even more like the sovereign, independent, liberated state of Iraq than it was before. The recently-appointed Special Envoy for Peace in the Middle East must be ever so pleased that his huge intensity and work is paying off so soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Undistinguishable in Mire

The Conservative Party has either developed a sublime sense of humour, or has lost the final tattered remains of the one it used to have, which it displayed with such brio in stunts like putting Peter Lilley in charge of social security. Not only are they pushing Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as the next mayor of London, but his rivals for the nomination are called Boff, Lightfoot and Borwick. Lightfoot's first name is Warwick, which may or may not rhyme with Borwick. Since, as is well known, the Conservatives have no policies other than New Labour ones, presumably the fielding of a set of candidates which sounds like a law firm out of Charles Dickens is intended to give some indication of the party's vision of the future: thousands of nice rich people dispensing charity, millions of poor people working flexible hours for non-materialistic wages, Ignorance and Want doing the rounds of the faith schools, and fog everywhere.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Greatest Gift

Another of Daveybloke's focus groups on the business of increased cuddliness has come up with yet more sparkling insight; namely that "naturally acquisitive people often tend to be dissatisfied and unhappy". Britain has contracted "affluenza" and is in "social recession", with a million people taking drugs of which the Government disapproves and twice as many taking drugs which make a healthy profit for pharmaceutical companies. This is because British society has a "preoccupation with materialism" which has led to rampant "status anxiety" which is the "darker side of wealth". The group is headed by Zac Goldsmith, who doubtless knows all about what a burden it is to be rich; and by John Selwyn Gummer, whose horror at the prospect of seeing the Church of England become an equal opportunities employer led him to apostatise and take up pope-worship instead. Naturally, the group has called for an end to "hedonistic treadmill where individuals can never be satisfied", urging that people instead pursue a "slower" lifestyle involving "a cut in salary and flexible working" so that their gross materialistic urges may be conquered in the name of cutting carbon emissions. The group's report will "form the basis of the Tories' environment policy", which is probably for the best given what it has going for it as social policy. It is expected to "stop short of endorsing nuclear power as the answer to cutting carbon emissions, while recommending radical proposals for getting people to fly less and use more environmentally friendly forms of transport." The report will also note that "Treating [the market] as a god and doing its bidding does not make men and women happy", an observation with which I am sure many of us will agree, except for those who don't.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Falling Out

As we all know, because the Glorious Successor's spin doctors have told us, Gordon is a differently fishy kettle from the recently ascended Vicar of Downing Street. Where Tony brought war, Gordon brings planned and considered withdrawal. Where Tony brought gifts to the very rich, Gordon brings non-inflationary pay awards to the little people. And where Tony fought shoulder to shoulder with Halliburton to get Saddam's oil, and helped re-start the Cold War in order to safeguard Britain's imports of Russian gas, Gordon has announced that "the security of our energy supply is best safeguarded by building a new generation of nuclear power stations".

Unfortunately, he announced it before the completion of the consultation process which was forced on the Government in February after the high court ruled that the previous consultativity manifestation was "manifestly inadequate and unfair". According to its own guidelines, the Government is bound to keep an open mind until after the "fullest public consultation" has been made and properly ignored. Half a dozen pressure groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund, have accused the Government of distorting the evidence to make nuclear power look a more safe and viable option than it really is. Imagine that.

"The new consultation is no different from the government's previous attempt at a nuclear consultation," according to a document drafted by these malcontents. "It skirts over the many negative aspects of nuclear power such as its enormous cost, what to do with all the radioactive waste new build will create, and how little nuclear power will do to help cut carbon emissions and guarantee energy security." Of course, the idea that nuclear power produces harmful radioactive waste is, like the idea that carbon emissions need to be cut, merely the consensus of a lot of scientists. "It has become clear that the government has already made up its mind," the document continues, "and that this new consultation is nothing more than an expensive sham. The material produced for public consumption contains glaring factual inaccuracies, errors and omissions and is little more than a pro-nuclear polemic." Imagine that.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Iraqi Collaborators: The Letters Are Working

As noted here, the Government is aware of the plight of Iraqis who have worked for the occupying forces and now face reprisals, up to and including torture and execution, as a result. The Government is so grateful for their efforts that it intends doing nothing to alleviate the situation until the end of the month, and possibly not even then. Unfortunately, the death squads are unlikely to oblige us by awaiting the results of the interdepartmental review in quiet and patience. Dan Hardie has details of the next stage of the campaign, a speaker meeting at Parliament on Tuesday 9 October, the second day of the new session.

If you have not yet written to your MP on this issue, please do so. If you have done so, please write to them again, invite them to attend the meeting and request them to invite the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to attend as well; and inform them that the mainstream news media will be present.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Infernal Devizes

Michael Andrew Foster Jude Kerr PC QC MP, the Member for Devizes and Thirteenth Marchioness of Loathing and Something-or-other, has done his best to return the Conservative Party to its traditional roots of backstabbing and internecine warfare by launching a quick brick at Daveybloke's cuddly window-dressing. Because the Marchioness "applauds some of his leader's policies and the proposals emerging from policy review groups", he has taken care to do his smashing and blabbing on the same day as the public services review by a group under the leadership of Stephen Dorrell. The group recommends breaking up "ghetto" estates by giving council tenants ten per cent of the value of their slum in order to help them buy property in the private sector; the remaining ninety per cent to be acquired through hard work and family values, no doubt. Dorrell took the opportunity to deny that Daveybloke is "trashing" the party's heritage, and regurgitated the standard burble of British politicians who are in the midst of an ungainly lurch to the right: namely, that they are "reaching out to the centre ground". Nevertheless, the Member and Marchioness for Wherever and Whatever has urged Daveybloke to return to "core values" such as tax boo hiss, Europe boo hiss, and marriage rah rah. He denounced efforts to present the Conservatives as "the heir to Blair" and insisted that they should "instead embrace Thatcherite achievements" such as, presumably, neoliberalism, Atlanticism and piety for the poor folks, all of which Blair has of course shunned with all the strength of every grinning, pulsating sphincter in his glorious body. Or perhaps the Marchioness was referring to the poll tax.

Monday, September 03, 2007

VB Day

British forces have withdrawn undefeated from Basra, thanks to the Iraqi militias, who have kindly stopped shooting at them since they "released about 30 gunmen a few months ago and spread the word that they would soon withdraw". The Glorious Successor was at pains to emphasise that the withdrawal was "pre-planned and organised", as presumably was the American evacuation of Saigon, and therefore not a defeat. The number of British troops will remain at the present level for the time being in case the sovereign, independent Iraqi government orders them to "reintervene". The minister for Iraq's sovereign, independent defence forces said he was "certain that the security situation will be much better" than the steadily improving quagmire we have seen developing over the past fifty-four months, now that British forces are available as "backup" to the sovereign, independent Iraqi forces, rather than as a freedomising, flower-pelted crusade as originally planned and organised. The Glorious Successor has proclaimed that, in the light of this glorious victory, "we are staying to discharge our obligations to the Iraqi people and the international community", although the extent of the reparations and the dates of Tony Blair's trial and his own do not appear to have been specified.