The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shoulder to Shoulder

Kim Howells, the underling at the Ministry for Lesser Breeds whose ethical rigour has been noted here once or twice before, seems to have been precipitated by the state visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia into a sudden and traumatic lapse into veracity. Howells caused irritation among the more spinally endowed Labour backbenchers, and received an embarrassing scolding from the Liberal Democrats, when he called for the "Two Kingdoms" - somebody's been at The Lord of the Rings again - to work together on a basis of "shared values". Some commentators, Howells said, will focus on our differences, in that uncharitable way that commentators have. Nevertheless, "we both face the same threats and insecurities", as well as the same flexible attitude to torture and good business practice. Howells also "insisted that both countries understood the threat that groups such as al-Qa'ida pose". Well, since al-Qa'ida was born in Saudi Arabia and gained perhaps the most effective recruitment drive in its history partly through the benevolent offices of the United Kingdom, one would rather hope they did.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Holy Transports

Ruth Kelly, whose stint as Sectarian of State for Communities was an eloquent testament to the Blair ministry's immunity to embarrassment, looks set to continue this useful function in her new Brownite role as Secretary for Traffic Jams and Airport Expansion. Since the Government has just announced plans for using motorway hard shoulders as extra lanes, and is backtracking on its environmental commitments faster than an Opus Dei member rear-ending a choirboy, the Department of Transport has decided to give us a bit of comic relief by letting Kelly's mouth off the leash once more. Sure enough, she's come up with a corker: rather than offering a rational public transport system, the Government will offer "free transport advice clinics to encourage more people to walk, cycle or take a bus instead of use their cars". Households and "other organisations" will be offered home visits by Actual Experts who will analyse their journeys and draw up "personal travel plans" showing how some car journeys might be made by other means. "I have spent much time listening to cost-benefit ratios," Kelly burbled. "These policies are relatively cheap and incredibly effective." Call me a crusty old cynic if you will; but at a time when policies to reduce carbon emissions from road traffic are already being watered down "to get manufacturers to agree", it is a little hard to share Kelly's transports of enthusiasm.

Kelly also mentioned plans to "use air traffic control to reduce wasteful emissions caused by delays in landing and indirect routes". Translated, of course, this means that we must build more airports so that all those extra aircraft can land all the more quickly. Then we can build more aircraft, slightly greener ones, which will make the new airports even more eco-efficient, and then we'll be able to build even more airports without missing our emissions targets by more than a few dozen percentage points. It sounds sorta paradoxical, but no doubt it can be done. After all, New Labour is the party of enterprise and social justice, the party that does food for Africa and has dinner with Rupert Murdoch, the party that saved Iraq and destroyed it, the party that battles evil and connives with kidnappers and torturers, the party that protects our way of life by removing our rights. "What I reject is the notion that we have to choose whether we back aviation expansion or unilateral curbing of aviation in order to be green," Kelly blathered, just before they stuck the gag back in.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

You Can Take the Lessons of History and Apply Them

The American Secretary of State, Condoleezza "Tanker Girl" Rice, is attempting to learn the lessons of history in time for a conference on the progress of the Final Solution to the Palestinian problem. "She's trying to draw on the historical record and the experiences of others to see what she can glean and how that may be applicable to the current day," said a State Department spokesbeing. "We view the situation as qualitatively different than it has been, the history moves on, people change roles, situations," the spokesbeing continued profoundly. However, "That said, you can take the lessons of history and apply them," thank goodness. Obviously, learning the lessons of history is a Good Thing. If Britain had not learned the lesson of history that appeasing dictators is Bad, we might not have liberated Iraq, and where would we all be then? Dr Rice has left herself all of eight days to assimilate the historical background of the Middle East, which begins with the career of Henry Kissinger and progresses through Carter's Camp David accords and Clinton's 1994 Israel-Jordan peace deal to Madeleine Albright's attempted forgery of an Israeli-Palestinian pact in 2000. The USSR also comes into Middle East history somewhere, although that part of Middle East history is classified in case it falls into hands less safe than those of Dr Rice. History, particularly in a volatile region like the Middle East, is much too important to be left to those who might use it to learn the wrong things.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Right Combination

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has pledged to put an end to Tony Blair's "doctrine of liberal interventionism" because, although it is "morally correct" it fails to "strike the right balance between realism and idealism". Apparently the idealism consisted in a lack of scepticism about "the ability of states to create utopias" by bombing and invading people's countries in order to steal their oil. The realist component, no doubt, was the bit about sucking up to the White House, a tradition Daveybloke presumably intends to retain, while adopting the said scepticism and calling it "liberal conservatism". Liberal conservatism is one of two principles which Daveybloke believes represent "the right combination of realism and idealism that we need to deal with the serious dangers of the modern world." The other principle is "national security first". Daveybloke noted the idea of several eminent military thinkers that "no campaign will succeed unless you secure your home base first" and reasoned from this that "only from a position of security at home can states confidently promote security abroad". It seems we shall need a few more restrictions on Muslims, single mothers and other hazards before we can think about invading anywhere new.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Negotiate Properly Or I'll Bash You Up

The Bush administration continues to indulge its appealing if less than subtle taste for irony with its latest poke at the Great Satan in the Middle East. The White House has labelled the Revolutionary Guards a supporter of terrorism and "imposed the toughest sanctions on Tehran since the Islamist revolution of 1979". Before the Islamist revolution of 1979, of course, the United States had no need to impose sanctions on Tehran, as Tehran was occupied by the Shah who imposed sanctions upon the Iranian people on his master's behalf.

The evil Revolutionary Guards also "have business interests ranging from newspapers to cars", unlike the Pentagon which is funded from taxpayers' money through a crypto-socialist, big-government welfare state. This is why the evil Revolutionary Guards can afford to interfere in the affairs of sovereign nations, exerting a destabilising influence on the US-imposed democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and exacerbating the existential threat to the Righteous State by giving financial aid and comfort to the elected representatives of the Palestinian Untermenschen.

As if that were not enough, it appears that the evil Revolutionary Guards are "proliferators of weapons of mass destruction" because they have some sort of role in developing nuclear weapons. Since the evidence for the existence of such weapons is, if anything, even more pitiable than the evidence of Saddam Hussein's wherewithal for placing a mushroom cloud over New York, it is obvious that the evil Revolutionary Guards are developing the weapons in deep, sneaky secrecy. Perhaps they're doing it in a cave somewhere.

In another courageous change of direction by the Glorious Successor's government, Britain "said it supported the US action".

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

World Leader on Climate Change Plans Painless Abdication

I am a martyr to my charitable nature. Less than twenty-four hours after I implied that New Labour was doing nothing to mitigate the approaching energy crisis, it turns out that New Labour is doing less than nothing. Some public-spirited soul has leaked documents to the Guardian which show that John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Corporate Pandering, intends to advise the Glorious Successor to abandon even the pitifully inadequate measures to which Tony Blair signed up, on the grounds that they involve "severe practical difficulties". Apparently the decidedly mixed blessing of an economy based on something that isn't going to disappear in a few years (what is a shortage if not a convenient business opportunity?) is not worth the trouble of "persuading the Ministry of Defence and the shipping industry to accept more offshore wind power", let alone shouldering the costs of research and development. Another of Hutton's complaints is that, if Britain is indiscreet enough to live up to its obligations, "it will undermine the role of the European emission trading scheme" and "reduces the incentives to invest in other carbon technologies like nuclear power". I suppose we must be grateful for the small mercy that Hutton's interest in medicine has gone into abeyance, or else we might be hearing why the use of penicillin faces severe practical difficulties on the grounds that it undermines the credibility of mercury and leeches. Hutton claims that it could cost four thousand million pounds a year to improve our policy to the extent that only 91% of our energy depends on things that are about to run out. Provided we cut down on certain other forms of waste, this would leave us with over two thousand million a year to spare.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Everybody Needs a Hobby

Now that Britain is at the forefront of sustainable renewability, with forty-nine fiftieths of our energy coming from sources which are about to run out, a German report has stated that global oil production peaked in 2006 and will fall by about seven per cent a year. The report "relies ... on actual oil production data", which apparently the oil industry hadn't thought of, believing its own estimates to be more accurate. Well, after all, why wouldn't they be?

The report is peppered with reminders such as "For government, industry and the wider public, just muddling through is not an option any more" and "the government prefers to sleep on" and accusations of "institutionalised denial". This seems rather strange, given that the consequences of the approaching energy crisis, assuming that nothing continues to be done, will be "scenes of mass unrest as witnessed in Burma this month", not to mention wars and social breakdown. Scenes of mass unrest, wars and social breakdown mean that governments usually feel obliged to crack down on enemies of the state, call out the troops and start shooting at people. It seems a charmingly old-fashioned idea to believe that those in power might actually dislike doing such things, even if the Confabulation of Business Interests and its ilk were not around to give assurances that the starving, smoking ruins might, with proper management, continue to be an economically viable concern.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Debatably Hoon

That accomplished entertainer and sometime defender of democracy, Bomber Hoon, has indicated his gracious willingness to permit a "national discussion" before the Government extends the time limit for detention without charge. Hoon, who is chief whip and thus the man by whose charisma and persuasive power the matter will be decided, believes that "there would have to be a proper debate in the country and in Parliament before any new proposal was brought forward". This is certainly democratic of him, even if it is a little difficult to understand how a proper debate can be had about a proposal which hasn't yet been advanced.

Sir Ian Blair, the instant and utter Commissioner of Scotland Yard, has spoken of a "mounting" number of terrorist plots, which can be more effectively foiled if police are permitted to imprison people for "somewhere between" seven weeks and three months. He also said that the worst time for a debate on the subject would be "in the aftermath of an atrocity"; so presumably, given the number of plots that are mounting, we need to get the big conversation over and done with in double-quick time so that the Parliamentary Labour Party can roll over once more.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another National Database, Hurrah

Well, here's a thing: a report by the Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose and the best police force in the world claims that most of Britain's spy cameras are in the wrong place for them to do any good in the war on evil, and more than four-fifths of the pictures they produce are of insufficient quality to be any help in police work. There is, as one would expect, "an increasing tendency for CCTV schemes to be used as income generators", but somehow or other the profits derived therefrom have failed to trickle down into the battle for true British values and national redemption. Even more surprisingly, not even the Ministry of Surveillance knows just how many cameras there are, since anyone can set up a CCTV network and there are no statutory safeguards. The solution, of course, is another national database, so that the Ministry of Eternal Vigilance can begin to keep track of those who are keeping track of those who might one day step out of line. "Whether legal powers exist to tackle invasions of privacy involving privately-run CCTV is a grey area", possibly because the Government does not know how many laws it has passed on this matter or what powers it has arrogated to itself or dispensed to private snoopery specialists. A spokesbeing for the Ministry said that the report highlighted the need for "improved public accountability" (or, in Oldspeak, more centralised government control) as manifested in the new database, national training standards for those who have set up CCTV networks but don't know how to use them in the fight for Britishness, and "a stronger role for the information commissioner" in ensuring that all spying is done properly and with due regard for the privacy of those who can afford it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

High Value Processing

An all-party committee is to investigate the possibility that Diego Garcia, the island stolen from its inhabitants by the British government and leased to the US military in return for a discount on our membership costs in Uncle Sam's Nuclear Nations club, has been used by the CIA as one of its "black sites". The Americans have "repeatedly given assurances" that combatants from the wrong side of the war on evil have not been held on Diego Garcia, but a retired general and professor of international security studies at West Point has twice mentioned Bagram airfield, the Guantánomaly and Diego Garcia as places of rendition for the evilly disposed. Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, recently investigated the CIA's use of European territory for its personnel-oriented memory holes, and reported to the Council of Europe that "We have received concurring confirmations that United States agencies have used Diego Garcia, which is the international legal responsibility of the UK, in the 'processing' of high-value detainees"; which is just what one would expect from a cuckoo-clock eating neutrality monkey. Meanwhile, the Guardian notes blithely that any evidence "pointing to the existence of a secret CIA prison on the island would be hugely embarrassing for ministers". This seems a little optimistic. There might be some annoyance at yet another public-relations failure; but if our ministers had even a residual capacity for embarrassment, their average time in office would be a good deal lower and their suicide rate a good deal higher.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kerr Wotta Scorcher

Deborah Kerr has died, so naturally Britain's leading liberal newspaper is careful to note her role as a "sexy adulterous wife" in From Here to Eternity. "Her scene with Burt Lancaster on the beach with the waves washing over their bodies was considered on the verge of scandalous in its time", drools Mark Tran; after all, the American Film Institute named From Here to Eternity "one of the top hundred most romantic films of all time". Tran also mentions "the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan vehicle Sleepless in Seattle", which immortalised Kerr for a generation of Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan fans by heavily featuring An Affair to Remember. Kerr also appeared in The King and I and "even played a Bond girl in the 1967 version of Casino Royale." Now, that's what I call a legacy. When Julie Christie departs life's great stage, we can be sure that Mark Tran or something of the sort will be there to remind us of the sex scene in Don't Look Now, no matter what the merits of her acting elsewhere, or in the bits of Don't Look Now that he didn't understand and/or can't remember.

At the end of his piece, Tran is just about able to remember Kerr's roles in two films by The Archers, the epic Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and the exotic melodrama Black Narcissus; the former has no notable merit in Tran's estimation except that Kerr appeared in it "after switching to film", while the latter has the distinction of being the "breakthrough" role that sent her to Hollywood. Her outstanding performance in Jack Clayton's The Innocents, a version of The Turn of the Screw which turned Henry James' prim, prolix and stodgy novella into one of the cinema's best-ever ghost stories, is relegated to a picture caption, "The kids aren't all right".

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Family Fortunes

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, said today that he did not "doubt for one moment Mr Brown's sincere desire to remove the scourge of poverty from our land", though the justification for this touching faith seems a little elusive.

Daveybloke also had a few things to say about aspiration. "Aspiration is not about class, background or position"; even a hoodie can dream of Eton. "Everybody dreams of rising up in the world", except for an insignificant few who dream of being left alone to mind their own business, "and everybody dreams of giving their children a better life" except for an insignificant few who have better things to do than breed the soldiers and stockbrokers of tomorrow. Daveybloke does not care where you started out in life; his mission is to help you rise higher. How does he propose to fulfil this vision of aspirationality? "We must help the haves to have more", another radical change for the Conservative Party, which the Independent refers to as "a foray into traditional Labour territory". We must also "back the aspirations of our over-taxed, over-burdened middle classes", except for those who no longer wish to live as couples; "but a modern aspiration agenda means helping the have-nots to have something", though presumably not at the expense of the over-taxed and over-burdened middle classes, let alone that of the haves who have only just been helped to have more.

Between mathematical profundities, Daveybloke accused the Glorious Successor of failing to discriminate sufficiently against those who are not married, claiming that the present tax credits system rewards couples for living apart. Presumably Daveybloke was thinking of the children, who would obviously be much better off in a proper household complete with bickering parents, deathly silences and an efficient tax credit system, rather than suffering the horrors of single-parentism with its attendant moral depravity and evident material advantages.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sparing the Rod

A California toy company, One2believe, is negotiating for the release of its inspired line in Biblical kitsch in the United Kingdom. Apparently they've done a roaring trade via the Church of WalMart and now hope to enlighten Britain's brats as well.

The toys include P31 dolls, which are available for the Lord to use "as a means to encourage the girls of today to become Proverbs 31 women of tomorrow!", namely the kind whose price is far above rubies, or $39.99 in this case; and "to encourage young girls to pursue biblical womanhood", doubtless including concubinage. P31 specimens to date include Abigail, one of King David's less colourful wives; Elizabeth, who gave birth to John the Baptist; and Leah, who was somebody's ugly sister; and jolly Hebraic they all look, too. Leah "comes with an accessory kit, containing a Bible lesson (based on Proverbs 31:20), two cookie-cutters, a cookie recipe, and a list of exciting activities". Abigail "comes with an accessory kit, containing a Bible lesson (based on Proverbs 31:20), two cookie-cutters, a cookie recipe, and a list of exciting activities". Elizabeth, however, "comes with an accessory kit, containing a Bible lesson (based on Proverbs 31:20), two cookie-cutters, a cookie recipe, and a list of exciting activities". Biblical womanhood is clearly a thrilling proposition; one can only await with anticipation the emergence of Bathsheba, Jezebel and Jael the wife of Heber.

There are also Tales of Glory figurine sets, including a Daniel who comes with about ten per cent of a den and a lion who looks like Dougal from The Magic Roundabout after a bad haircut; a David and Goliath where David and Goliath are about the same size and appear to be in amicable agreement about the ownership of a smallish bit of elephant dung; a Moses and the Ten Plagues which seems to have got mixed up with the Ten Commandments (surely those stone tablets didn't appear until after Pharaoh let his people go?), the plagues being represented by a lump of broccoli and some beetles.

Then, of course, there is the inevitable Jesus Loves Me Bear, a "soft plush bear with gold bow that sings and dances to the song Jesus Loves Me"; and the even more inevitable Messengers of Faith, including a 30-centimetre-tall Jesus doll which recites Bible verses and boasts for almost a full minute about the feeding of the five thousand; and an Esther doll for the Zionists among us.

I could go on and on; but the treasures at One2believe are infinite. The founder of the company, Dave Socha, claims to have a Proverbs 31 wife: "Give not thy strength unto women", saith the mother of King Lemuel, who also noted that a virtuous woman "is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar". Perhaps the kitchen in Dave Socha's house has been placed too far from the dining area. The Vice President of Sales is a 24 fan who "enjoys the opportunity to interact with his clients and provide their product needs" in between hearing about "the children, who come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, grow in their relationship with Him, and learn about the Bible through God's use of our Christian product!" Children can learn from these toys even when God has pinched them to use for himself. Lots of other people work at One2believe, including a webmaster who cannot spell Philippians. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Between the Covers with Ramsey Campbell

Some of my work is appearing within thirty pages of a piece by Ramsey Campbell, which is not something that happens to me every day, or to him either, I suspect. The Ghost Story Society has done me the honour of including in the latest issue of their journal, All Hallows No.43, an article of mine about Robert Aickman's story "The Hospice". The journal is a rather substantial one, with over three hundred pages incorporating an appreciation of Henry James' ghost stories which almost tempts me to have another try at reading the flabby old fusspot; an interview with Dan Simmons, whose historical horror novel The Terror (reviewed elsewhere in this issue of All Hallows) is one of the very best things I have read in recent months; various ghostly fictions by divers hands; and Campbell's regular column, "Ramsey Campbell, Probably", which treats this time of the wonders of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. There is considerably more besides.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sweet Reason

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who spends much of his time negotiating with his more literal-minded brethren over whether a homosexual man in a big white hat is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, has proclaimed that the debate over religion has been "approached in the wrong way" by those who, instead of engaging fully with such eternal verities, merely try to establish whether religious belief is true. "Don't distract us from the real arguments" with such fripperies, he pleaded. Religious belief is "naturally self-critical", as can be seen by glancing at the record of any theocracy in history; and there are "specific areas of mismatch between what Dawkins may write about and what religious people think they are doing"; well, that settles that. Being the non-eccentric, eminently rational and naturally self-critical paragons they are, I suppose the religious people must be right. "Our culture is one that deeply praises science," Dr Williams continued; "so we assume because someone is a good scientist, they must be a good philosopher. My inner jury is out on that"; doubtless Dr Williams' inner jury has long since settled any questions about the philosophical competence of a good theologian. The Archbishop also noted that "God is real for believers", as though anyone doubted it or even as though it proved anything. He then proceeded to correct some over-simplified assumptions about the Deity and the Big Bang (if God was there first, he "must be complex", contrary to the claims of scientists and other mythographers), and warned against the assumption that religion is "an eccentric survival strategy", whatever that may mean, or "an irrational form of explanation".

Saturday, October 13, 2007

In Case You Were Wondering

The recently-ascended artist formerly known as the Vicar of Downing Street has declared himself shocked by conditions in his new parish. He didn't know about them before. There are no atheists in foxholes, there are no Socialists in New Labour, and there are no Bee Gees in Palestine. Tony can hardly be expected to know things about places where there are no Bee Gees.

Still, Tony has learned a thing or two. "I have learnt the depth of Israel's concern for security, and I have learnt the depth of the Palestinians' distress caused by the occupation," Tony says. That makes two things which Tony has learned. Apparently he didn't know those things before, either. Nevertheless, despite the intimidating steepness of the learning curve, he still "accepts Israel's view that Palestinians should not have a state until it can reasonably guarantee its neighbour's security", much as the independent, sovereign Iraqi government should not have a state unless it can reasonably guarantee the security of Iran, I suppose.

Tony is privately dismissive of "the argument by some Israelis that security comes first, with economics and a political deal well behind it", informing diplomats that "all three have to happen together" and that a "stepping stone" towards full negotiations for a final resolution of the Palestinian problem is "do-able". He "accepts in private that settlement expansion will soon make a Palestinian state unrealisable", while at the same time supposedly believing that Olmert bar Sharon "sees a two-state solution as necessary in Israel's interests". Hamas, as the legitimately elected government of the Palestinian people, will be "totally excluded". Tony does not appear to have professed shock at this fact; but then, perhaps he doesn't know about it yet.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

So Anyway, About These Iraqis

So anyway, in the wake of the letter-writing campaign, the Government has discovered its huge gratitude to the Iraqi civilians who have helped British forces in the quagmire, and now intends to give resettlement help to some of them. In order to be helped, Iraqis will have to prove that they have worked for British forces or diplomats for a continuous period of twelve months.

Unfortunately, while this is better than I had expected, and certainly better than what these people would have got had it not been for the response to Dan Hardie's campaign, it does not begin to be good enough. To start with, as even the British Government admits, Iraq is a war zone. War zones are chaotic. In situations of chaos, the requisite paperwork is sometimes hard to come by. One is reminded of the old Protect and Survive manuals, designed to reassure the British people that nuclear war was really jolly survivable if you had a few doors about the place, which used to exhort potential survivors to preserve their birth certificates along with all those tinned goods so as not to make Armageddon an unduly bothersome process for anyone concerned.

Secondly, not all those Iraqis who are under threat of death will have put in twelve months' continuous service. Some will have done less than twelve months and then left their jobs because they had been targeted. Some will have done more than twelve months, but not over a continuous period. Some will have been transferred to the Americans. Some will not have received proper documentation, or will have used different names because of the danger, or will have had their names transcribed differently by different clerks.

Thirdly, the Foreign Office statement made no mention of the families of Iraqi collaborators. Since family members will be murdered faute de mieux, any resettlement measures must apply to them as well as to the collaborators themselves. This will mean a few hundred people, not the fifteen thousand quoted by the Home Office as a frightener for the Daily Mail crowd.

Fourthly, we should not be judging these people's entitlement to shelter on the basis of their length of service. If one is trying to rescue a man who is being chased by a shark, one's first question should not be "How long has he been in the water?" Whether a particular person has been targeted by the local death squads is the only acceptable criterion; and it is also something that the British army should be able to assess on the ground and refer to London.

Fifthly, this is not the way a civilised people treats those who help its soldiers.

Please write to your MP. That's what got things this far; it may yet push things further. Ask them to support the following Early Day Motion (No. 2057), which has been tabled by the Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone:

That this House recognises the courage of Iraqis who have worked alongside British troops and diplomats in Southern Iraq, often saving British lives; notes that many such Iraqis have been targeted for murder by Iraqi militias in Basra, and that an unknown number have already been killed, whilst many others are in hiding; further recognises that many Iraqis who have worked for fewer than 12 months for the UK are threatened by death squads; and therefore calls upon the Prime Minister to meet the UK's moral obligations by offering resettlement to all Iraqis who are threatened with death for the "crime" of helping British troops and diplomats.

As always, please use your own words rather than copying and pasting; and please be polite. The good ones deserve it, and the bad ones should not be given the excuse.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Second-Hand Phish

From: "darlingbloke"
Date: Wed Oct 10, 2007 1:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: lots of money can be yorus widows orphans

Dear Sir or Madam

I hope thsis fiunds you well adn that you have not recently bean berefted of a Close relative however if such regerttable circumstances apply there is now all the More reasnon to Vote for Gordon particularalily had he called and electon wich wisely he did not for the Good of the Country and to protect the intreretsts of buddhists and postals worker victims everywhere.

i am Alistair Darling I am darling Bloke. I am Not under sany cricumsnatchers ton be cofused with Daveybloke. I am not he and him are not me. this is TRUE thw rod of a new Labour minintser wichh is not given lightly unless the interestst of the country seems to warant it.

I am darlingbloke i am Different to Daveybloke. i am True Bloke he is not True Bloke. that is the Profound and lasting Differerence bewteen us. Daveybloke is the old tory disguished as the new Tory. new Labour was new Labour but new New Labout is new shining and True new as new Labour almost never was unless tony was at the Tpop of his mahge imaghe gamg game Game. daveybloke cannot stael plolicies form old New labour now thtat darlingbloke is Here for New new Labour!!!!!!!!!!!

If you are Foriegner wroking in New new Labours' new Britain and limmitting yoru Tax blil by claiming nonindomcililiary status then beware britain Welcomes imigrants who do a marvelous job but Not those who limmitting there Tax blil by claiming nondomondomicilililiary status I Got my eye on you.

i am Nort daveybloke. i am Darlingbloke. i am Good he is evil you can see it in our Hair colour.

Vote for Gordon eventually and keep thngs the same but different only stable yet more dynamic helping community cohesion through hard family Britishness God bless you All and keep little maddy safe.

Alistar daring
Daringbloke darlingbloke (bloke)

(Not Daveybloke)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hugely Grateful

Here is the official Foreign and Commonwealth Office press release on the Government's offer to some of those who have risked their lives to help British forces in Iraq. There are one or two things I could say, but I think it speaks for itself.

On 8 August the Prime Minister announced a review of the Government's assistance to our Locally Engaged staff in Iraq. The Defence Secretary, Home Secretary, Secretary of State for International Development, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and I have now agreed on the elements of a scheme.

Locally engaged Iraqi staff working for our armed forces and civilian missions in Iraq have made an invaluable contribution, in uniquely difficult circumstances, to the UK's efforts to support security, stability and development in the new Iraq. We are hugely grateful to them for their contribution, which continues to be essential to the delivery of our mission in Iraq.

In recognition of that, we have decided to offer those staff, on an ex gratia basis, assistance which goes above and beyond the confines of what is lawfully or contractually required. Assistance will be based on objective criteria, taking into account determinable and relevant factors. It is offered in recognition of the service by these courageous Iraqis in direct support of HMG's efforts to help the Iraqi Government and people build a peaceful, stable and prosperous Iraq.

The assistance announced by the Prime Minister yesterday will allow Iraqi staff, including but not limited to interpreters, currently working* for HMG in Iraq, who have attained 12 months' or more continuous service, to apply for a one-off package of financial assistance of between 6 and 12 months' salary, depending on length of service, to meet the costs of relocation for themselves and their dependants in Iraq or the region, if they are made redundant or have to resign from their job because of what we judge to be exceptional circumstances. Alternatively, these staff will be able to apply for exceptional leave to enter the UK, or to avail themselves of the opportunity for resettlement in the UK through the UK's Gateway refugee resettlement programme, provided that they meet the criteria for the programme, including that they satisfy UNHCR that they meet the criteria of the 1951 Convention and need resettlement.

In addition, interpreters/translators and other Iraqi staff serving in similarly skilled or professional roles necessitating the regular use of written or spoken English, who formerly worked for HMG in Iraq, will be able to apply for assistance for themselves and their dependants provided that they satisfactorily completed a minimum of 12 months' service, and they were in our employ on or after 1 January 2005. Former staff meeting those criteria will be able to apply for a one-off package of financial assistance similar to that available for serving staff, or to avail themselves of the opportunity for resettlement in the UK through the Gateway programme as set out above.

This assistance will principally apply to Iraqi nationals who meet the eligibility criteria set out above, and who work, or have worked, in Iraq in the following capacities:
- as direct employees of the UK Armed Forces or the Ministry of Defence;
- on Letters of Appointment from the British Embassy in Baghdad or the British Embassy Offices in Basra and the Kurdistan Region;
- as direct employees of DFID and the British Council.
In addition, we are considering what assistance may be provided to a limited number of contracted staff meeting the eligibility criteria who have worked in particularly close association with us as an integral part of HMG programmes, projects and operations in Iraq.

We will announce further details, including on how eligible staff may apply, before the end of the month.

* defined as those working for our civilian missions or armed forces on or after 8 August 2007, the date on which the review of policy was announced.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Room for Improvement

The Glorious Successor has tributised the work of Iraqis who have helped British forces, "many of whom have worked in extremely difficult circumstances exposing themselves and their families to danger", but not enough of whom have been kidnapped and murdered for such inconveniences to be worth a mention. Gordon is pleased to announce a new policy which "more fully recognises" their contribution:

Existing staff who have been employed by us for more than twelve months and have completed their work will be able to apply for a package of financial payments to aid resettlement in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, or - in agreed circumstances - for admission to the UK. And professional staff - including interpreters and translators - with a similar length of service who have left our employ since the beginning of 2005 will also be able to apply for assistance.

I am not quite clear what that "have completed their work" clause means. I am sure it cannot mean that anyone who left their post because of death threats or the like will be excluded. I also don't much care for "will be able to apply for" (why not "will be entitled to"?) or "in agreed circumstances" (agreed by whom, and when? Perhaps by the Home, Foreign and Defence Ministries, in another couple of months?). The "more than twelve months" stipulation does not greatly impress me, either. Why are Iraqis who receive death threats after working for our boys for eleven months, or eight months, or eight weeks, more expendable than those who have worked for a year? Despite his vaunted insistence on family values, Gordon also does not mention any provision for the families of those he so generously permits to apply for his package. Other than that, of course, it's a very fair offer; but I rather think we can do better.

As Dan Hardie notes, this is the thin end of the wedge. The Government has recognised that it has to do something, and is now attempting to find out what, in this particular case, constitutes as little as possible. Hopefully tomorrow's meeting (whose venue has undergone a small alteration) will help persuade it that more is needed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Having landed like a ten-ton toad on Craig Murray's weblog and caused collateral damage to those of Tim Ireland, Boris Johnson and others, all in the interest of preserving his pristine reputation, and having seen that reputation splattered across the blogosphere like a ten-ton toad being dropped from a height considerable enough to rank it with the impact that did for the dinosaurs, the delightful Alisher Usmanov has picked himself up, allowed the dust and the poisonous black particles of toad-juice to descend, and started all over again. Presumably, he and his devoted lawyers at Schillings intend simply to keep shutting down websites until there is not a single human being left on the planet who has not read and absorbed Craig Murray's allegations against him. Then he can sue for libel and clear the air once and for all.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

That's All Right Then

The Murdoch Times reports that the Government is about to change its policy on leaving Iraqi collaborators to freedomise themselves as best they can. It appears that "interpreters who have worked for the British Government for 12 months will be given the opportunity of asylum in Britain" and "a few hundred vital support staff" will also be given some as yet unspecified help. It is far from clear just how many people will benefit from this act of compassion, but we are assured that the Government is taking every precaution against opening the floodgates to a lot of asylum seekers "with equally strong claims" from some of our other wars.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Anarchy in the UK

The forces of conservatism and societal breakdown have infiltrated public opinion to a disastrous extent, a Guardian/ICM poll reveals.

Despite decades of law and order reform, from Thatcher's short sharp shocks and youth opportunities programmes through the Vicar of Downing Street's offence creation drive to the present chorus of the Glorious Successor, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Daveybloke about our broken society, a majority of electoral resources believe that the Government should stop building prisons and find other ways to deal with criminals.

Fifty-one per cent of those questioned think the Government should find different ways of punishing criminals and deterring crime, and only forty-two per cent think prisons an effective punishment, despite considerable privatisation. Fifty-two per cent of Labour's own electoral ratification personnel do not wish to see more prisons built.

Worst of all, seventy-seven per cent of those asked believe the courts should pass tougher sentences, rather than being overruled by the Government or having their functionality redistributed to the police.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Emulating Our Greatest Ally

Well, here's a thing: an American policy which Her Majesty's Government is not rushing to emulate. The Government announced an "urgent review" of its policy on leaving Iraqi collaborators for the wolves on 8 August, which has turned out to be so urgent that no change of policy is evident two months later. Why is the Government not acting more like its greatest ally?

If you have not already done so, please write to your MP asking them to attend the Parliamentary Speaker Meeting on Tuesday 9 October. Speakers will include Mark Brockway, a former Warrant Officer in the Territorial Royal Engineers, who ran the British Army’s Quick Impact Reconstruction Projects in 2003. He hired a great many Iraqi staff in 2003, has been in close contact with them since and knows of at least one who has been recently murdered. Also present will be Richard Beeston, senior foreign correspondent for The Times newspaper; Ed Vaizey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Lynne Featherstone MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for International Development; and a senior Labour MP. Reporters from the mainstream news media will also be present.

Dan Hardie, who began this campaign, has a useful template setting out the main points; please adopt and adapt it, as MPs, like most people, tend to ignore obvious form letters.

Not Quite Flash, Not Quite Just, Not Quite Gordon

The Vicar of Downing Street's second most significant legacy faces a bit of a dilemma at the annual Down with Frogs, Out with Wogs Party conference in Blackpool. The problem is that he is the leader of the opposition in a country where his party's policies are already being implemented.

It is a cruel situation. Daveybloke, like New Labour, cannot put forward effective policies on climate change because the Confabulation of Business Interests wouldn't like it. Daveybloke, like New Labour, cannot put forward coherent policies on parliamentary reform because the Westminster Club would close ranks and blackball him faster than a Home Secretary drafting the whims of Murdoch into law. Daveybloke cannot oppose New Labour policy on killing Middle Easterners, because his party has supported them every inch of the blood-drenched, rectum-licking, our-boys-bolstering way. Daveybloke cannot oppose the privatisation of public transport or the National Health Service, because even if he were prepared to risk cerebral accident by doing such a thing, the result would be a haemorrhage of membership into the BNP and other such salubrious locations, while the rump of his own party would show him the real meaning of understanding a little less and condemning a little more by forming one of history's smaller, if noisier, lynch mobs. Daveybloke cannot oppose New Labour policy on Europe or the Human Rights Act, because New Labour has no interest in Europe and is probably even more eager to derogate from the Human Rights Act than Daveybloke himself. Daveybloke cannot oppose New Labour policy on immigration because the only way of getting to the right of New Labour on that issue is to kick out everyone in the country who knows how to tile a roof or fix a pipe, and many of those people are white. What is a bloke to do?

This is what Daveybloke is doing: he has pledged to stop New Labour's early release scheme for twenty-five thousand prisoners. Daveybloke cannot oppose New Labour policy on putting people in prison, but he has leapt at the opportunity to oppose letting them out, even if that means an ever more impossible job for our boys in the police and the prison service. These people are being released, you may recall, not because New Labour has suddenly developed qualms about incarcerating vast swathes of the population in places where they can learn to be more ambitious and unscrupulous criminals, but because New Labour's vast swathes of new crimes, new offences, new police powers and more macho sentencing meant that there was nowhere to put all the extra bodies. There is still nowhere to put them, but Daveybloke apparently believes he can solve this difficulty by scrapping the identity card scheme. The money saved by this minor excursion into reason is to help fund prison places, which will obviously appear instantaneously by dint of sheer market forces.

Daveybloke also intends to give "tough love" to the unemployed: anyone who declines a job offer which somebody or other thinks "reasonable" will have their benefits withdrawn, thus saving the taxpayer eight billion pounds (eight thousand million, in Oldspeak) which will be spent on contracting out the running of job centres to private businesses and voluntary groups. Such bodies are "far better" at running return-to-work schemes than civil servants, according to Daveybloke, whose acquaintance with the workings of Metronet, Railtrack and the Private Finance Initiative is obviously not the most extensive. Instead, he is relying on the findings of a "social justice group" chaired by Iain Duncan Smith; which may or may not be as tough or as loving as a sojourn on public transport or in a PFI hospital.