The Curmudgeon


Monday, March 31, 2008

Performance-Related Pay

The former boss of Northern Rock is called Adam and the new boss is called Sandler. That's as good an explanation as any for the Hollywood-sized payout Adam Applegarth will receive for his part in bringing this delightful comedy before the British taxpayer. The collapse of Northern Rock has been blamed on "exceptional costs related to the company's strategic review after the money markets froze last summer and ruined its business model, as well as writedowns on investments linked to the credit crunch" or, in Standard English, a failure to lay effective contingency plans. As the man in charge of this failure, Mr Amplegirth will get rather more than three-quarters of a million pounds over the rest of this year, provided only that he doesn't earn a salary of more than twenty thousand during that time. I am sure we all hope he can endure the hardship.

Northern Rock is pledged to repay twenty-four thousand million in Government loans by the end of 2010; it is unclear whether Gordon's little Darling has authorised any bailiffs to kick Adam's front door down in the event of a default.

In other news, environmental campaigners may have been proven wrong in their dire predictions concerning the effect of the new terminal at Heathrow. The last few days have been an encouraging example of the ways in which airlines really can help to reduce Britain's carbon footprint. Given the intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit of the British holidaymaker, it may take only a few more months of cancelled flights, lost luggage, untrained staff and incompetent management before a nearly significant number decide that staying at home is better for the health, whether environmental or merely mental.

Predictably, the Government has responded by putting pressure on BA to get the carbon footprint up to its proper seven-league size, while the Upper Miliband has castigated British Airways for treating foreign ministers in the same way as it treats the proles.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Speaking Tentative Proposals to Power, More or Less

The Department for Eternally Fleeing Responsibility for Anything has threatened to force energy companies to spend some of their profits improving the carbon footprints of "customers" - those wealthy but irresponsible types who choose to buy energy, rather than choosing to help the environment by eating raw food in outdoor-temperature homes. The proposals are "expected to lead to lower fuel bills for pensioners" and "should ... offer families a chance to cut their bills as a result of reducing energy use", provided one has a journalist's faith in the veracity of a New New Labour press release. The Minister for Doable Greenness, Hilary Benn, observed that "It's right that energy companies should play their part in cutting carbon emissions", which must be why they have been obliged to spend less than a hundred and fifty million a year since 2002 on playing just that. Assuming that the proposals which eventually go through match the ones in the press release, this obligation will now rise to a thousand million a year for three years. However, now that the Glorious Successor seems definitely to have settled into the role Edwina Currie's intimate friend played to Margaret Thatcher - the gutless wonder following the sanctimonious psychopath - it will be interesting to see how doable it will all become should the energy companies decide, against all precedent, that environmental concerns and the welfare of the vulnerable ought to take second place to corporate profit and directors' bonuses.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Big Business Break

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has signalled what the Guardian calls a "break with big business" in the fashion one would expect; namely by excoriating the Government for being insufficiently sycophantic towards big business. Daveybloke said that his party's approach in the nineties "slightly was to cross out the headline on a CBI press release and put in 'Conservative party'", but that the approach now should be slightly not. In the light of the various fiascos afflicting our banking, transport, health and energy systems, "economic liberalism alone is not enough". Leaving big business alone to get itself out of the mess it has got us all into would be an act of catastrophic irresponsibility towards almost everyone who matters. Hence, Daveybloke observed, a significant part of New Labour's failure has been "excessive bureaucratic intervention ... too much tax, too much regulation, too little understanding of what our businesses need". Evidently the executive bonuses are still too low. However, "in another sense, Labour's economic failure has been one of inaction".

As an example, Daveybloke "mentioned a global IT company thinking of investing in Britain or Ireland. The British sent the company a brochure. The Irish sent them a delegation that made a presentation" with the result that the company set up their office in Ireland. It is not immediately clear whether this is a case of the Government having intervened too little or too much; but it certainly shows the importance Daveybloke attaches to matters of presentation. As further proof of his priorities, Daveybloke stated that "People are looking to their government for one simple thing: reassurance", since actual competence is clearly off the agenda. The Daveybloke solution: "While we must be aware of the limitations of government, we should never be limited in our aspirations for government." It is certainly reassuring to see Daveybloke once more rising above the soundbite culture. Surprisingly, Daveybloke also declared himself in favour of economic dynamism and against do-nothing dithering and economic incompetence; and rather than "old-fashioned subsidies for hand-picked favourites", Daveybloke is inclined to prefer "the kind of plan we need to help Britain ride out the global downturn and build the foundations for future economic success". Big business must be shaking in its shoes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Now It All Makes Sense

Proof that market forces can help the environment emerged today with the news that the Poodle Archipelago's greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by eighteen per cent since 1990, provided only that emissions from three major sources - aviation, shipping and imports - are ignored. The reduction comfortably exceeds the pathetically inadequate requirements of the Kyoto treaty, and is due entirely to market forces, namely a rise in coal prices coinciding with a fall in gas prices during 2007. No doubt this is why the Government intends to approve a new generation of coal-fired power stations to keep our carbon emissions more or less on target until we can switch to the new, clean, renewable isotope of uranium that will keep our Britishness glowing through the twenty-first century.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Inhumane or Super-Human?

Having terminated, at a minimum, tens of thousands of Iraqi people's lives and ruined millions more, the Ministry of War and the Colonies Including Scotland has admitted that the human rights of almost ten Iraqis have undergone "substantive breaches" during the ongoing war on unpleasantness. A "very small number of troops" were responsible, according to the Minister for Cheap Armed Forces; the rest have conducted themselves, predictably, "to the highest standards of behaviour" conceivable by a New New Labour minister.

Seven members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment were put on trial after a three-year investigation; a hundred witnesses were heard, ninety-two per cent of whom were not Iraqis. A certain Donald Payne pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment of the subject race and was jailed for not quite as many years as some people get for being suspected of anti-democratic activities; everyone else was acquitted. The treatment involved "hooding, handcuffing and placing of terrorist suspects into stress positions, as well as depriving them of sleep, in order to make them more likely to answer questions"; as one would expect from functionaries of New New Labour, the matter of whether the answers thus obtained would be true was evidently not one of significant concern. Still, the unaccompanied Donald Payne, indulging in his disgusting hobbies entirely alone and without the knowledge or consent of his superiors, must have had a rather exhausting time of it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Virtual Orphans

An internet game in which the object is to turn one's character into the "hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world" has set aflame the glands of righteous indignation among those parents who believe that the internet should be the new television, namely a relatively inexpensive means of keeping the spawn out of the way. A spokesbeing for a parents' rights group noted that the game "becomes a hazard and a menace" if a child "fails to appreciate the irony and sees the bimbo as a cool role model". Since this same spokesbeing also believes that "children's innocence should be protected as far as possible", it seems doubtful that this should be taken as an exhortation to teach nine-year-olds the appreciation of irony. Ironically, however, the danger to the children (the peril that, thanks to the game, "some will then aspire to have breast operations and take diet pills" - just think of all the estate agents we might have avoided if only it weren't for Monopoly) depends on "the background and mindset of the child" - factors over which parents, particularly those who spend all their time organising parents' rights groups, exercise no control whatever. Children are "easily influenced at that age as to what is cool", according to a father for whom the task of influencing his own children is apparently not easy enough. Worse yet, the spokesbeing said that the game also constituted "a financial danger for parents if they did not keep an eye on the texts that were sent". The clear statement of a problem can sometimes imply a solution; could it be that in this case...? Evidently not: "one parent threatened the creators with legal action after his daughter ran up a £100 mobile bill sending texts without his knowledge". Perhaps he was watching television at the time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Debt of Gratitude

It appears that there is some method in the Government's planned deportation of 1400 Iraqi asylum seekers, beyond the self-evident one of Christian charity being its own reward. Now that Iraq is safe, at least for those less valuable than Des Browne, something between 450 and 650 deserving cases are to be airlifted out of the country, along with their dependents, to begin what the Guardian euphemistically calls "a new life" here in the Poodle Archipelago. Since there are now so few cases of genuine hardship in Iraq, these people have been "hand-picked", in order to ensure that the British taxpayer is not overly discommoded; the choice having first been conveniently narrowed down by the Foreign Office's stipulation that no-one who had worked with British forces for less than twelve months could be in any significant danger. The refugees will be taken to Slough for two days and thence to "resettlement areas" where they will be on hand to take the blame for any British jobs lost by British workers in the promised recession.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dies Irae

That gifted entertainer, Dr Rowan Williams, who has an invisible friend and believes that a man once rose from the dead, has warned people not to be deceived. As the head of a tolerably wealthy organisation which seeks to improve the country's moral tone via faith-school indoctrination and parliamentary obstruction, he urged Christians to let go their "selfish, controlling, greedy habits". Not for the good of anyone else, of course; but in their own interest, as a preparation for their own death. Meanwhile, the Bishop of Rochester, who recently had a whine about the lack of funding for Christian indoctrination of the sick, the young and the otherwise imprisoned, "urged high earners to share their wealth more generously"; while the Bishop of Lichfield said: "The brave new world where everyone is meant to have choices has proved unworkable without values that come from somewhere", a statement whose profundities I humbly leave for better theologians to plumb.

The Pope, like his most recent namesake Benedict XV, has responded to the massacres of various good souls by various other good souls mainly by wringing his hands. He called for "solutions that will safeguard peace and the common good", citing several of the world's most troubled regions, including Africa where Catholic propaganda has done so much to safeguard the human immunodeficiency virus.

Williams noted "the greed of societies that assume there will always be enough to meet their desires - enough oil, enough power, enough territory". He apparently did not give examples of such greedy, acquisitive, ignorant societies - Christian Spain in the sixteenth century, Christian France and Christian England in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Christian America in the twentieth century - but observed that "we as a culture can't imagine that this civilisation, like all others, will collapse and what we take for granted ... simply can't be sustained indefinitely". There has even been talk of repealing the blasphemy law.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

At Least Hypothermia Doesn't Push Up Inflation

Choice and efficiency being the watchwords of privatised utilities, the energy companies will probably choose to increase their prices again before the year is out. For maximum efficiency, the price rises will most likely take place "during the autumn, just as consumers are turning on the heating", and will be targeted for particular impact on society's most expendable members. The wholesale prices for electricity and gas have risen by twenty-six per cent in the past three months, which may be why Gordon and his brother Andy and their chum Nicky are in such a hurry to get all the world glowing with healthy radioactivity. Not all of the wholesale increases have yet been passed on to consumers, which may be why E.On can afford to spend thirty-two million sweetening the FA Cup and practically one-seventh of that amount helping pensioners pay less provided they do it in a fashion agreeable to E.On.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Big Tent, Big Terror

The Government's campaign to prevent the terrorists from changing our way of life is to be further cranked up, if that is the verb I want, with the Glorious Successor's National Security Swivet, which urges architects to design buildings fit for stiff upper lips to cower in. "We know that right now our public places are under surveillance from individuals who are trained to look for vulnerability," says the voice-over on a Home Office training video. "The truth is some structures and spaces can actually assist in their appalling ambition," it informs. "Maybe you can't see the responsibility you have got," it lectures. "Until you do we are back to where we started, back to anxiety, back to fear," it continues, with the calm rationality and respect for the intelligence of its audience which we have come to expect from the Ministry of Fitness for Purpose.

Architects who follow the Government's urgings will be expected to design buildings with windows no larger than three square metres, avoid masonry cladding on buildings higher than two storeys, provide 0.66 square metres of "secure space" per occupant (designed "so people do not flee one blast only to run into the path of another" - presumably there will also be signs directing the terrorists to place their bombs according to the appropriate safety regulations), and set the buildings fifty metres back from roads in order to make room for the necessary concrete and steel blockades. This last is, of course, an eminently practical measure in a large, crowded city such as London where, thanks to the war on terror being waged by our leaders, the most serious of the recent terrorist attacks on Britain have taken place. Nor is that the only advantage: given sufficient time and urging, "the result could be an 'inhuman' urban landscape which fosters division and paranoia", turning whole cities into one great big happy Whitehall.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Health Tourism

A threat to the wellbeing of the British taxpayer who was deported in January has died in Ghana because she had a form of cancer which the country could not afford to treat. It serves her right for violating the conditions of her visa, of course. She was removed from hospital on 9 January, driven to Heathrow airport and flown to Accra, where she knew nobody. The Lancet described the Home Office's decision as "atrocious barbarism". The chief of the Border and Immigration Agency described the case as "sad", and noted that "The circumstances surrounding this case were not unique ... The case was carefully considered by both trained caseworkers but also through the independent judicial process". In other words, the actions of the British government do not have the excuse of barbarism. They were carefully considered, judicially upheld, bureaucratically rubber-stamped and dutifully carried out. It took five immigration officers to do the job. Perhaps they were afraid she would attack them with her wheelchair.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chinese Reforms Fail to Halt Riots

China's continuing crusade to win hearts and minds in the war against feudalism suffered a setback today as Beijing admitted that anti-government demonstrations are spreading.

The state-run Xinhua news agency also reported that Chinese soldiers had wounded four rioters "in self-defence", presumably while doing a superlative job under difficult circumstances.

Inevitably, in the light of today's events hawks in Beijing will be asking whether the time has come to unhand the fist inside the iron glove.

China has come under international pressure to act with restraint in Tibet, where the feudal government was toppled and replaced with a modernising one in 1951.

Since the invasion, successive Chinese governments have made considerable efforts to encourage an appropriate sense of Tibetanness insofar as it is compatible with a proper understanding of fundamental Chinese values.

Despite China's recent economic liberalisation and introduction of a market economy, the present unrest in the region will be seen as a setback for Beijing.

The US secretary of state and moral arbiter, Condoleezza Rice, reportedly "strongly urged" her Chinese counterpart to tread carefully in the region during a 20-minute phone call.

Should these urgings be in vain, it is not clear what sanctions the US intends to impose against China, beyond the possibility of further 20-minute phone calls from Condoleezza Rice.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2003 And All That

The Iraq War was a war fought in Iraq but not against Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing against the forces of Soddomite reprision.

Causes of the Iraq War
1. The Soddom Hussein. The Soddom was the evil ruler of Iraq. It was a pro-Western ally and thus widely hated by the Arab Multitudes, and also an anti-Western fanatic and thus widely hated by the Civilised World.
2. The Weapons of Mass Destruction. Nuclear, chemical, bacteriological, unconventional and invisible weapons with which the Soddom threatened to turn New York into a mushroom.
3. Radical Islam. A movement of mullahs, fellahs etc., which was responsible for the Seven-Eleven attacks targeting American free enterprise and shopping. The still more fiendish cartographic wing of the movement had also threatened to wipe Israel off a map.
4. Torture. Torture was regularly carried out in the Soddomite Empire and was widely considered a Bad Thing, especially in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Texas etc.
5. Sanctions. The sanctions had been imposed by the United Nations as a means of depriving the Soddom of the medicines, pencils etc. which it needed to manufacture the Weapons of Mass Destruction (q.v.) However, the sanctions also caused much hardship and suffering among the Iraqi people, which the Coalition of the Willing decided to ameliorate by means of shock and awe.
6. A Dodgy Dosser at Downing Street, reputed to have "fucked Gilligan" five times a night for years under the Freedom of Information Act.

Progress of the Iraq War
The War started well, with the Coalition quickly pulling down a Statue of the Soddom in Victory Square and removing the Soddom itself from a Hole in which it was cowering like a spider, possibly in a mistaken attempt to emulate Sir Robert Bruce. This phase of the War culminated in the famous culmination by the President of the United States, who stood on the deck of the USS Chickenhawk and proclaimed "MUSHROOM AVERTED". Grateful New Yorkers, remembering the tragedy of Seven-Eleven, were visibly moved.

However, the War was continued past its official end by the dastardly Mullahs and their Soddomite followers, who persisted in attacking Coalition personnel even though they (the Fellahs) had been beaten in a fair fight. Liberalising moves such as the rationalisation of the oil ministry and the cutting off of electricity in case it was used for foul play merely infuriated the Mullahs more. This led directly to Iranian explosive devices, which the Coalition tried to stop by holding elections and people without trial to be humiliated with rotten apples. This was a cause of Ann Clwyd and a Bad Thing.

Conclusion of the Iraq War
The Iraq War continued for several years, but was eventually overshadowed by the Global Economy and the ineptitude of the Portuguese police.

NB This Brief History of the Iraq War is brought to you as part of the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What Did I Do Tomorrow?

This newly-reprinted novel by L P Davies opens with Howell Trowman, the eighteen-year-old heir to a large pharmaceuticals firm, faced with an unpleasant problem. His father's health is bad; his mother wants him to leave his education and help take the strain of running the family business, while his father wants him to go up to Oxford. If Howell does as his father wishes, the old man may kill himself through overwork; if Howell does as his mother wishes, his father - a self-made man, unused to being thwarted and possibly unaware of the seriousness of his condition - may succumb to a different, but equally dangerous, form of strain.

Thinking things over at school, Howell is so concerned with his dilemma that he barely pauses to consider his sense that the events of this particular day - Founder's Day 1969 - have somehow happened before. Literally in the blinking of an eye, so that the arm of the chair he is sitting in changes into the arm of a different chair as he watches, he finds himself removed from the school and alone in an unfamiliar room. He quickly discovers several unsettling facts: five years have passed; he is employed by his father's main business rivals; he seems to have come down in the world; and his school friends and family have turned against him because of some mysterious dereliction he apparently committed during the blank interval. It seems, also, that somebody is out to get him.

Most of Davies' novels combine elements of mystery, horror and science fiction, and much of the effectiveness of What Did I Do Tomorrow? derives from its disinclination to play straight about which genre it actually belongs to. The title resembles that of Philip K Dick's Now Wait for Last Year, and Howell himself spends most of the book convinced that he's been transported forward in time to discover the consequences of his decision in 1969. Even after a friend observes that this would be a pointless exercise - the decision has already been made and its consequences cannot be changed - Howell persists in his belief; and certainly the alternatives suggested by other characters, while slightly more mundane, do not seem much less implausible.

Although Davies' style is undistinguished, his control of his outré plot is absolute, with characteristically urgent narrative drive leading to a clever and satisfying solution.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Reconciliation, Democracy, Prosperity, Security

The Glorious Successor has said that there will be a full-scale public inquiry into the mistakes (sic) surrounding Operation Iraqi Liberation. Fortunately, he has no intention of holding it now. Nor has he any intention of holding it at any time in the foreseeable future. "Despite the progress made on the security, economic and political fronts in Iraq, the situation remains fragile and could easily be reversed," he said. "At this critical time it is therefore vital that the Government does not divert attention from supporting Iraq's development as a secure and stable country." Clearly a public inquiry would distract our boys a whole lot more than inadequate equipment, bad healthcare, post-traumatic stress disorder and lousy prospects. Still, the Vicar of Downing Street's Verger, Jonathan Powell, has noted that it could take decades to "bring calm to Iraq"; and it is possible that not even Gordon knows how long our boys will take to restore the country to the level of peace, tranquility and material comfort it enjoyed under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Presumably, then, the public inquiry will occur at approximately the same time as the Government starts to wonder whether it might not be getting on for time to start thinking about doing something about the environment at some point; say 2045 or thereabouts. It's unlikely even Gordon plans to remain in office for quite as long as that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tony Tells It Like It Is

Although Gordon's little Darling recently set new and more demanding targets in the war on carbon emissions, plastic bags and the Conservative government of 2050, the world's glaciers persist in melting faster than at any time since records began. The problem, according to the Observer, "could lead to failing infrastructure, mass migration and even conflict"; though doubtless it will all seem worthwhile once that Heathrow expansion is complete. Still, an indication of the seriousness of the matter is that Tony Blair has decided to commit his moral and political gravitas to helping the world see the error of its ways. Tony believes that, now someone else is there to take the political consequences, we have "reached the critical moment of decision on climate change". The decision, Tony believes, must be one in favour of "a vastly increased use of nuclear power across the world", plutonium being both more renewable than oil and less likely to fall into the wrong hands as long as the terrorists play nicely and keep their details up to date on the appropriate databases. After all the good that Tony has done as peace envoy to the Middle East, not to mention his contribution as Prime Minister towards lessening the United Kingdom's dependence on fossil fuels, I am sure this is jolly reassuring.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

We Don't Need Your Kind Here

Mehdi Kazemi, an Iranian asylum seeker, has been temporarily unfailed by the Minister of Deportation and Detention. Kazemi is homosexual, which carries the death penalty in Iran; the British government, with its usual sensitive understanding of what it's like to be nineteen, helpfully advised him that "he would be safe in Iran if he was discreet about his sexuality". Evidently it would never occur to the mad mullahs to read the infidel English press and connect the Mehdi Kazemi mentioned therein with the disgruntled young man being kicked off an aeroplane into the Islamic Republic. Kazemi has said that he "will only feel safe if the Home Secretary personally guarantees his right to remain in Britain", which shows that, despite previous experience of the business end of our asylum policy, he still has much to learn about the personal honour of our rulers in this Mother of Democracies.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Empire Youth

The Ministry for War and the Colonies has been accused of rewriting history over Iraq. Fancy that. The National Union of Teachers has registered objections to a lesson plan, commissioned for the Ministry by a private company, Kids Connections (not Kid's Connections, not Kids' Connections, not Kids, Connections; education, no doubt, R Them) which specialises in "working with schools to provide marketing solutions that children, teachers and parents have both contributed to and approved". The lesson plan is "aimed at stimulating classroom debate about the Iraq war"; whether, for instance, our boys are doing a wonderful job under difficult circumstances, or whether they might be better employed arresting hoodies and running prison camps here at home. Concerning such secondary matters as the legality and consequences of the war, the lesson plan resolutely protects the youngsters' innocence. The National Union of Troublemakers wrote to the Secretary for Human Resource Configuration, Ed Balls, who assured them that "my department does not promote or endorse specific resources or methods of teaching for use in schools", and passed the parcel to the Ministry for War and the Colonies. A spokesbeing for the Ministry said that the lesson plan was, like ID cards, "completely voluntary" for the moment. "We have consulted widely with teachers and students during the development of these products and feedback from schools has been extremely encouraging," he added. "Teachers and students found them to be valuable and fun resources for applied learning." This certainly sounds like a marketing solution.

The National Union of Traitors is also worried because "armed forces recruitment fairs in schools glamorise the job by citing exotic countries that recruits will visit but fail to mention that they may be required to kill people". I suppose it is just possible, in the present educational climate, that some children may not have heard that the armed forces kill people; but why glamorise the job more than absolutely necessary?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Get Back In, the War's Just Lovely

As noted by Justin, the Minister for Dawn Raids and Destitution has declared that Iraq is safe enough to use as a dustbin for 1400 Iraqi asylum seekers who were granted what is appropriately termed "hard case" support in 2005. They have received "basic 'no-choice' accommodation, three meals a day, vouchers for essential items and only utility bills paid"; but now that Iraq is safe enough for the eminently dispensable Des Browne to be smuggled in like an Iran-manufactured land mine, this inexcusable level of indulgence can no longer be reasonably maintained. Indeed, after four years and fifty-one weeks of liberation and enlightened values, Iraq is now so safe that the ejectees will be "asked to sign a waiver agreeing the government will take no responsibility for what happens to them or their families once they return to Iraqi territory". This is only natural, given that those who return will be doing so voluntarily, to escape being put on the streets.

The shadow minister for Hanging, Flogging, Castration and Human Rights apparently was not available for comment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Basra Is A Happier Place Today

A week before the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the Minister for War and the Colonies Including Scotland has gone to Basra on what his spokesbeings called a "general visit". Perhaps he's gone to see for himself how well the Government's programme to help Iraqi staff is going. Perhaps he's delivering better equipment, since a close friend of Prince William has been killed. Perhaps he's gone to share a good snigger over the planned use of the Conflict Prevention Fund to outsource RAF work to a private arms company. I doubt it, though. Given that the main required qualification for New New Labour ministers appears to be a form of contact with reality which might charitably be described as something less than intimate, he probably means to give the lads a bit of inspiration.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brit Phish

From: "goldenboy"
Date: Tue Mar 11 2008 4:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: entrench yoru brtitishness

Dear Freind and Pratner in Brtitishness!!!!!!!!!!

I am Lord Glodsmith wellbeloved Chum of tony and his Chums. I amm Priomninnent Atttory attttorny genernal the Author of ditsingushed Papper on illlegal war adn its abdridged Version on Legal war i am Lord Goldmiths. for mny nexxt Trick i do disnitgushed Papper on Brtititshiness. i make Claer what is neeedd to be Cititzen adn setup Pratcictatl Measures taht may ehnanhance a Sense of shred Belgonging rah rah. mY Reprot otr ort ort makkes a Range of Porposals thattttt ouch touch every Strage of an individividuables life. my porpsals are itnended to pormote the Meanign and Snignificnance of brititishnice ness wihtin morden Brititan & c;ean up Hoooodies.

inn nmy Porposals whihich i proprose i porporse Thinking of the chlidren with new brtitish Cereminonies. i porpsoses Brishitness Date by Olimpyc 2012 Glod Metals rah rah. YOUU need not invlovve oth of Alleigance to the Queen you may Pledge committment to the Contrary Contry country or Statement of waht the righghgts and repsopsinbinilities of Citzens ars. also SMALL small rebat Concil Tax for do Volununtry Wrok. NEW asssosssiate Citizenry instaed of residual Foriegners abbolished rah rah rah.

Bieng Brtitish has Never been easeir or Cheapper! gordon has pormissed Lively Debacle & i am Lord Godsmitt i am Prpepareing SHort A4 repport saying teh opopsite of the above.

I am lorg Dogsmirth i ammmm tonychum and LORD


Monday, March 10, 2008

What's Good for BAE Systems is Good for Britain

Well, here's a thing: a cost-cutting exercise by the Ministry of Democratisation means that, no matter how much respect and gratitude the Royal Air Force gets, it cannot service its own aircraft. Some time before the Government closed down Britain's only remaining dedicated military hospital, the Government closed down its main facility for servicing Tornado jets. This was in 2005, when Tony's various wars were apparently going so well that somebody with a spreadsheet, a very long way from Iraq and Afghanistan, calculated that it would be better to save five hundred million pounds over ten years than keep the facility open. Another facility, at RAF Marham, was apparently given a new coat of paint in an effort to compensate; but all the same, there was an outcry from trade unions, MPs, the all-party Commons defence committee and, no doubt, any watching aliens for whom the actions of the present Government must be the equivalent of one of Sylvester Stallone's more unsuccessful comedies. Since the cutbacks, by some unpredictable quirk of fate, the RAF has had to increase its operations in Iraq, and "the net result is that there is insufficient capacity available at RAF Marham to meet the full requirements of the operational and training task". Accordingly, the Ministry of Peace Through Strength is planning (I almost said conspiring, nasty suspicious old sourpuss that I am) to employ its old friend BAE Systems, at a cost to be determined by BAE Systems, doubtless with due attention to the national interest, and paid out of the Conflict Prevention Fund. The Conflict Prevention Fund consists of "money set aside to clear landmines and remove arms from conflict zones"; and no doubt, in New New Labour's eyes, the business of servicing Tornado jets falls into much the same sort of category. Fortunately, the most important part of the enterprise is already being dealt with: "Defensive news briefs are being developed to counter adverse media comment".

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Artificial Family Values

Given that we cannot look after the children we have, cannot educate them properly, cannot feed them properly, cannot induce them to socialise except over the internet, in hoodie gangs or with paedophiliac groomers, it is only natural that certain of our parliamentary representatives should wish to facilitate more births. Since the world is overcrowded and fast running out of resources, a cross-party group of MPs is trying to overturn the present ban on the use of artificial gametes in creating yet more human pregnancies. As when humanity progressed from hitting one another with flint axes to twenty-first century humanitarian intervention, the technology which a rational species might use to make life easier is being co-opted as a means of turning mindless instinct into genocidal self-indulgence. The chair of the British Fertility Society urges us to "take the example of a cancer victim who hasn't got any sperm or eggs because they have had chemotherapy - if you get to the step where we could make it for them, most people will say they can see the benefits". The benefits of adoption and fostering, or even of belonging to a generation which Gaia might not have to cull, are obviously a bit more elusive.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Frightened Little Men

The Glorious Successor's famous commitment to restore civil liberties has duly been put into practice, New New Labour style, with the criminalising of the demonstration which has been going on for fifty years outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. The Ministry for War and the Colonies cited "operational and security concerns", the presence of some women in tents being potentially a fatal obstruction to the first-strike capability of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hearts and Minds

Members of the Royal Air Force, the administrator of short sharp shocks to uncivilised tribes, our stalwart defender during the dark days of 1940 and hired guild of airborne assassins in the present crusade for enlightened values, have been ordered not to wear their uniforms in public because civilians near the aptly-named RAF Wittering have used words against them. It is possible that, in their spare time, the civilians do outstanding jobs under difficult circumstances, but this does not appear to have concerned participants in the predictable outpouring of indignation and treacle from the paragons of public service at Westminster. "All our armed forces should be able to, and encouraged to, wear their uniform in public," fulminated the Glorious Successor, "and have the respect and gratitude of the British people for the huge commitment to public service they show". As usual when dealing with British rather than debased values, the Glorious Successor has difficulty separating the concept of public service from the habit of doing as one is ordered.

The Conservative MP for the district, Stewart Jackson, said: "The police don't have records of any serious problems. My understanding is that it's a small number of incidents of verbal abuse." Unfortunately, he does not appear to have said it to any members of the shadow cabinet. "We cannot have our armed forces personnel intimidated for wearing the uniform they are so rightly proud of," blathered the shadow Minister for War and the Colonies, Liam Fox. "I think that the majority of our public would be appalled to hear that there are no-go areas for our armed forces, even in their own country." No-go areas? Perhaps the honourable member is confusing our armed forces with Christians, the white working classes, or some other oppressed minority. Anyway, the part of Des Browne that concerns itself with military matters is investigating the problem "as a matter of urgency", since it is, after all, a matter of public relations rather than legality or vital equipment. "A government review of the public's perception of the military is being carried out. It has been suggested as part of the review that soldiers may be encouraged to wear their uniforms off-duty to boost their popularity", the sight of a uniform being sufficient in itself to blast open the pleasure centres of those who carry out government reviews.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


The announcement by the Secretary of Fitness for Purpose that the ID card scheme will be tested on social undesirables is apparently the good news which is meant to drown out the publication of a report commissioned two years ago by the Treasury. The report concerns "the economic and social benefits of 'effective ID assurance systems and infrastructure'", rather than the economic and social benefits of the systems and infrastructure which the Government actually plans to introduce; but it might still have caused a bit of embarrassment had New New Labour retained any capacity for so civilised an affliction.

The report criticises the Government's identity card scheme on the grounds that it is "uncoordinated". This is a euphemism. According to the report, a national identity card scheme should "not be promoted as an anti-crime initiative". The Government's identity card scheme has been promoted as anti-terrorism, anti-illegal-immigration and, most amusingly of all, anti-ID theft. According to the report, a national identity card scheme should "involve minimum amounts of information". The Government's identity card scheme requires fifty categories of information, so far. According to the report, a national identity card scheme should be "free to users". The Government's identity card scheme requires that those who are forced to carry the card should pay for the privilege of being compelled.

The report was commissioned by the Glorious Successor, in between writing about courage and sulking about the neighbours. "The Treasury published the review today with minimum publicity, and its release coincided with the home secretary Jacqui Smith's high-profile announcement of further details of the programme's implementation," notes the Guardian's senior political correspondent; which shows that the hidden agenda behind a press release is occasionally so subtle that it can be observed even by a journalist.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Blackmail is an Ugly Word

The energy companies have responded to the faint possibility of a windfall tax from Gordon's little Darling by warning that it would "undermine investment in green power projects and other measures to combat climate change". British Gas, which has made such massive sacrifices to keep its call centres going, observed that a "stable, predictable investment climate" - whereby money flows into the corporate coffers regardless of such extraneous factors as the quality of service provided - is vital if energy companies are to continue putting pictures of windmills and so forth in their marketing brochures. "A surprise or shock tax is very destabilising for the industry when making long-term investments," said the chief executive of Drax, the well-known James Bond villain which owns the largest single carbon producer in the country and says it is aiming to generate a whopping ten per cent of its energy from plant biomass. Plant biomass is "seen", presumably by Drax, "as less damaging to the climate than coal," which is jolly reassuring. But if Gordon's little Darling goes and imposes a nasty, regulating, price-fixing, investment-environmentally destabilising windfall tax, that ten per cent could be in danger. Self-evidently, there is nothing anyone can do about it. A windfall tax was imposed on North Sea operators three years ago, which "led to a slump in drilling activity that ultimately cut tax revenues" without any apparent intervention by the operators themselves.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Space Cadets

The present Government's commitment to honesty, responsibility, public probity and data protection is rivalled only by its dedication to science. The no doubt fortuitously acronymed Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network of radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank is the "only world-class astronomical facility based entirely within the UK", and is therefore a low priority for the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which has a budget shortfall of eighty million pounds, or slightly less than the Government has already pissed away on Northern Rock. The STFC also intends cutting university research grants by twenty-five per cent, so that the Ministry of Education Within the Bounds of Reasonable Profit can do a bit of agonising over why we have so few graduates in the hard sciences. However, we can rest assured that investment will continue in "one of Nasa's space exploration missions designed to study explosions in the universe", which remains safely among the STFC's highest priority projects.

Monday, March 03, 2008


The Righteous State's latest bout of ethnic cleansing has drawn the customary chorus of mild disapproval. Perhaps provoked by accusations of failure over his previous disproportionate yet overly restrained self-defence activities in Lebanon, Olmert bar Sharon has pronounced that "Nothing will prevent us from continuing operations to protect our citizens", using the very same methods that have been working so well since the intifada started. The Righteous State's new rampage is a response to the continuing rocket attacks from Gaza which, as so often with these volatile Middle Easterners, are not a response to anything. The Upper Miliband reiterated, for those who might not have heard of it, Israel's right to security and self-defence, and then proceeded to deliver a lecture on international law and minimising the suffering of innocent civilians. In the face of such an ethical nonentity, it is perhaps churlish to comment. Doubtless someone from the Righteous State's anti-antisemitism squads will remind him in due course that, whatever the relative scale of the damage done by Palestinian rockets, those rockets are at least considerably more real than those which were pre-empted by Operation Iraqi Liberation. Representing our greatest and closest ally, Condoleezza Rice will be in Jerusalem tomorrow, which will of course help matters no end. A spokesbeing observed brilliantly that "The violence needs to stop and the talks need to resume", but apparently forbore to comment on the extent to which US aid and military hardware will be denied the Righteous State until that happy state of affairs should come about.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Candy-Coloured Brown

The Glorious Successor has courageously conceded that, after nearly eleven years with him at the centre of government, it's going to be an uphill struggle to build "the Britain of our dreams". The Glorious Successor was attempting to rally that shrinking band of unfortunates known as "Labour activists" in anticipation of the local authority elections in two months' time. Naturally, he sprinkled the usual stardust about "creating and sustaining a strong economy" in which the Government cannot afford to pay its own workers in line with the rate of inflation; and, equally naturally, he whispered the usual statistics of a future Utopia: three hundred new schools, three million new homes, a taste of the whip for those lazy overpaid GPs and, for all I know, fifty new divisions of the British army poised to roll across Russia. In line with the New Labour doctrine that rhetoric equals commitment, he described child poverty as "the scar that demeans Britain" and pledged, yet again, to eradicate it. "Imagine if together we build a Britain where what counts is not how high up you start, but how high you can reach," he said, and proceeded to conjure up "a Britain where every parent of every child born today can watch them as they sleep and dare to believe that nothing is beyond them realising their potential", except for market forces, global economic factors, necessary measures to curb inflation, climate change, the energy crisis and all those other little inconveniences which the Government has no particular intention of doing anything about. As for children born on other days, they'll just have to fend for themselves.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

L P Davies

I first encountered the work of Leslie Purnell Davies as a result of seeing a film called The Groundstar Conspiracy on late-night television. It starred George Peppard as a security chief investigating an explosion at a secret base, and Michael Sarrazin as a mysterious, apparently amnesiac young man who might be a terrorist, an innocent or perhaps not of this earth. The film was based, rather loosely, on Davies' novel The Alien (1968), which I found on one of the second-hand book stalls at the invaluable Preston Market some time later. Although I knew and deplored the famous Hollywood habit of faithfulness to adapted texts, I was still a bit startled to find the book based in England in the year 2016, rather than present-day America; and even more surprised to find that the security chief, a major character in the film, was little more than a vaguely sinister presence on the novel's sidelines. The central character is the amnesiac who, among other symptoms, has unexplained scars on his head and chest, finds it difficult to breathe the local atmosphere, and has something in his veins that clearly is not human blood. Apart from the difficulty of not knowing who he is - spy? murderer? extraterrestrial infiltrator? - he also has to contend with the various sinister interests whose attention he has attracted.

A bit later I also read Davies' The Artificial Man (1965), about a science fiction writer who begins to doubt the reality of his surroundings, which struck me at the time as being rather too much like Philip K Dick's Time Out of Joint (1959); then I forgot about him until I read S T Joshi's essay in The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004). Joshi regards Davies' work as "in its quiet way, some of the most remarkable weird fiction written during the 1960s and 1970s", and on that recommendation, I quickly got hold of three more Davies novels. The most outrageous is the superbly-titled Psychogeist (1967), in which the subconscious of an elderly paranoiac, saturated with the comic-book fantasies he read in his youth, reanimates the corpse of a drifter which then goes marauding about the countryside believing itself to be a primitive superhero from another planet. Davies' clear, restrained style, in contrast to the publisher's blurb ("A nightmare of violence and terror, in which logic ceases to exist ... in which all things are the wild inventions of a deranged mind!"), makes it all eminently convincing.

Twilight Journey (1968) opens with a man, apparently another amnesiac, struggling across a wasteland to a tatty café where the man behind the counter provides him with some helpful information:

"This is a café. It is larger than a snack-bar, smaller than a restaurant. A restaurant is often part of a hotel. A hotel is a larger and better-class place than a lodging-house. The customers who frequent this café are mainly long-distance lorry drivers and workmen. The lorries carry industrial components, foodstuffs - "

The protagonist, it turns out, is a twenty-second-century scientist undergoing a form of virtual reality, called "senduction", which he has developed. The process was originally intended as an educational aid, but certain elements of the British government have less benign plans. This is, after all, science fiction. There is also a danger of "reversal", whereby a user of the senduction process may be brought back to the real world still believing themselves to be in a virtual one. The story moves between the outside world, where the scientist's colleagues and the men from the ministry are investigating the situation he has created; and the virtual reality, in which he eventually experiences a terrifying dystopian future as a result of his own beliefs about the uses to which the government will put his discovery.

In The Shadow Before (1970), a struggling London pharmacist has an operation to remove a brain tumour, resulting in a long, elaborate hallucination in which he is living in a large house under a new name, having apparently become wealthy as a result of some criminal activity. Having lost his memory because of a car accident, he recovers some of it only to discover that he and his partners in crime are about to be exposed. As the situation reaches a crisis, he wakes up in hospital; but over the next few weeks he becomes involved, not quite involuntarily, in the very crime that, in his hallucination, had originally made him rich. Even when he tries to use the dream as a guide to what he should not do - attempting to keep someone out of the real conspiracy who was involved in the dream one, for example - events seem to conspire against him. As in Twilight Journey, Davies tears through his convoluted plot in less than two hundred pages without a moment's confusion or a wasted word, and ties everything up at the end in an entirely satisfying and unpredictable fashion.

Given Davies' consistent concern with memory, identity and official snoopery, his work should retain its relevance well into the 2000s; and I have been fortunate enough to contribute in a small way to its revival. Some time ago I was contacted by a Mr Daniel Caffrey from Trashface, a publishing house dedicated to reprinting "books which otherwise languish in bargain basements and on Abe Books in secondhand Corgi editions". He had read my piece on Thomas Page's The Hephaestus Plague; Page's oeuvre is one of those scheduled for revival, and amid much shameless flattery Mr Caffrey asked if I knew of any other worthy candidates. I mentioned L P Davies and Psychogeist, and Mr Caffrey duly turned up trumps. Trashface launches today, and will be re-launching L P Davies in April. At his best, Davies brilliantly conveys the fragility and mutability of what we have inside our skulls, and it's a privilege to have head-hunted him.