The Curmudgeon


Monday, June 30, 2008

Say It Isn't So

The sovereign, independent Iraqi government is to award fat contracts to fat British and American companies, including Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total. The US State Department was kind enough to help the sovereign, independent Iraqi government with "template contracts and suggestions on drafting", though naturally without being involved in the decisions. One does not, after all, undertake regime change simply so one can interfere in the affairs of whatever sovereign, independent government one may later choose to prop up with a hundred and fifty thousand foreign fighters and the occasional civilian contractor. Nevertheless, the awarding of the contracts by the sovereign, independent Iraqi government to its beloved invader and its beloved invader's attack poodle will provide grist for conspiracy theorists like the ex-chair of the Federal Reserve. Shame on such people, wherever they may be, for the black, crude impurity of their thoughts.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The More or Less Acceptable Face of Capitalism

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, recently moralised that "Businesses and individuals that have any dealings with Zimbabwe must examine their responsibilities and ensure they do not make investments that prop up the regime", while William Hague "urged" companies with investments in Zimbabwe to "examine their consciences very carefully". It is to be hoped that the complexities of this important task will not interfere with their duties as executives, shareholders, profiteers or parliamentarians. Apparently six Cuddly Conservative front-benchers and one member of the Triangulation Party have fairly extensive investments in such famously ethical companies as Barclays, Shell, BP and Tesco. The shadow minister for car ownership, Robert Goodwill, said: "I don't have any influence in the bank because the size of my shares. If I tried ringing the chairman of Barclays, he wouldn't talk to me." On the other hand, "anything we can do to bring pressure to bear on this dreadful regime and evil man needs to be done", so Goodwill recommends "bring[ing] pressure to bear as a shareholder". Although the chairman of Barclays won't listen, this form of pressure would at least have the moral advantage of leaving Robert Goodwill's shares in Robert Goodwill's hands when it is "not a very good time to sell shares". Barclays, of course, "always seeks to conduct its business in an ethical and responsible manner"; according to the Independent, it also "owns two-thirds of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, and has to buy £23m in government bonds under the terms of its licence. It also contributes to a government loan scheme that has lent money to at least five ministers for farm improvements. The British parent company took a £12m dividend in 2006, and the Zimbabwean subsidiary's profits rose by 135 per cent in 2007". Doubtless Robert Goodwill can bear the moral burden with equanimity. A spokesbeing for Tesco went even further, claiming that the supermarket's exploitation of Zimbabwe was helping the natives: "There's precious little employment of any sort in Zimbabwe and it would be irresponsible to deprive thousands of people of their only means of feeding their families." We must remember that particular soundbite if the economy slides into recession; I look forward to reading of Tesco's refusal to deprive staff of a living at a time of high unemployment because it would be irresponsible towards the victims' families.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Algis Budrys

Every so often I read a good book and somehow fail to accumulate the author's complete works. For many years the only thing I had read by the outstanding Robert Silverberg was his novel The Stochastic Man; I liked it a lot, but I still never got around to reading any of his other books until The Book of Skulls led me on to Sailing to Byzantium and points elsewhere. In the case of Algirdas Jonas Budrys, who died early this month, I read two superb novels in my teens, was disappointed in a third, and made several false starts on a fourth.

The fourth is Michaelmas, about a journalist in conscious symbiosis with a worldwide computer network. As far as I can tell, there's nothing wrong with the book; I just haven't been able to finish it. I did finish The Iron Thorn, a short novel which begins memorably with a duel between a hunter (called an Honor) and a monster called an Amsir who curses him for a "wet devil", but which concludes forgettably in revelations of an experiment in social engineering.

Still, I was lucky in that my first two encounters with Budrys' work were two of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. The first was Who?, set in a near-future Cold War, about an American scientist who suffers a near-fatal accident and is cybernetically patched up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. When he is returned, his entire head and one arm have been replaced with metal prostheses. Because the scientist's life before the accident has been well-ordered, emotionally impoverished and dedicated almost entirely to his work, the security agents charged with verifying his identity find themselves stuck with an impossible task. Budrys alternates chapters about their investigation with episodes from the scientist's past, ending with a superbly ironic last line as the newly-minted cyborg crosses into the American sector.

I read Who? because I happened to see the film on television; in fact, my first copy of the book was a tie-in version, with stills from the film on the cover. (I've since acquired a Penguin edition, original price 3'6, with a Germano Facetti cover depicting a detail from "Nature Morte" by Raoul Hynckes.) The film was directed by Jack Gold, who also did a creditable job of bringing Peter Van Greenaway's The Medusa Touch to the screen; and because it was made in the 1970s and not the 2000s, it preserves the book's story and structure intact and allows the characters rather than the special effects to hold the audience's attention. The main divergence comes in the casting of Elliott Gould, which means that the American security agent has considerably more personality than the bland professional paranoiac in the novel. The Russian colonel who supervises the scientist's rebuilding, and who runs into problems of his own when trying to get information out of him (an interrogator's skills are somewhat limited when the subject has limited body language and no face at all) was played by Trevor Howard.

The next Budrys book I came across is, by all accounts, his masterpiece. Titled Rogue Moon by editorial fiat (Budrys preferred the more literal but less sonorous "The Death Machine" and claimed not even to know what "rogue moon" meant), it is set explicitly in 1959, the year of its publication, and problems of identity are again to the fore, not least because the narrative informs us only of the characters' words, situations and actions, never their thoughts.

There are at least two death machines in the book. The first is an alien formation on the moon which, once entered, must be travelled without deviation from a strict set of rules:

"It is, for example, fatal to kneel on one knee while facing lunar north. It is fatal to raise the left hand above shoulder level while in any position whatsoever. It is fatal past a certain point to wear armour whose air hoses loop over the shoulders. It is fatal past another point to wear armour whose air tanks feed directly into the suit without the use of hoses at all. It is crippling to wear armour whose dimensions vary greatly from the ones we are using now. It is fatal to use the hand motions required to write the English word 'yes' with either the left or the right hand."

Obviously, one can only discover what is fatal by sending people in to be killed. Hence the second death machine, a matter transmitter invented by the book's hero, Dr Edward Hawks. The device is capable of making a molecular scan of a subject and then creating a duplicate from any matter in the vicinity. The scan causes instantaneous destruction of the subject; although the duplicate cannot be distinguished from the original in any way, even by the subject himself, Hawks' absolute intellectual honesty means he cannot ignore the difference: "I'm not Hawks. I remember being Hawks, but I was made in the receiver some twenty-five minutes ago, and you and I have never met before."

A station has been set up on the moon, manned by duplicated volunteers who can never have a place on Earth. The alien artifact is explored by duplicates of naval personnel, whose counterparts on Earth are kept in a condition of sensory deprivation; because their brains are atomically identical, and because the man on Earth is receiving no sensory data, he receives the impressions of the man on the moon as if they were his own. Naturally, when the men in the artifact die, the ones on Earth are driven mad. The book begins with Hawks deciding that he needs a different kind of volunteer: one in love with death. "Some kind of psycho," diagnoses his assistant; and Barker, the man Hawks gets, is indeed a thoroughly distorted personality: a wartime assassin, a skin diver, car racer, ski jumper, aviator and small-arms champion who obsessively courts physical danger and seems to revel in the hatred of others. As Hawks observes, Barker flourishes when he can seek out murderers to defy; the shifting, interlocking triangles between Hawks, Barker, his lover Claire, and Vincent Connington constitute perhaps the best-oiled and most chilling of the book's death machines.

The relationships between the five main characters are drawn with great subtlety and economy. Hawks' manipulation of Barker's neurotic courage ("Think he'll chicken out?" asks a subordinate before Barker's first moon shot. "Not if it's put that way," Hawks replies. "And I've done that.") is mirrored in the affable unpleasantness of Vincent Connington, the personnel manager who pushes Hawks and Barker together for reasons of his own. Barker's edgy, quasi-sadistic relationship with Claire contrasts with the easy friendliness between Hawks and Elizabeth Cummings, whom he meets while walking away from Barker's opening challenge of his machismo. "You don't try to use me, cozen me or change me," Elizabeth tells Hawks later. "I take up as much room in the world, the way you see it, as you do. Do you have any idea of how rare a thing that is?"

Rogue Moon is an extraordinary book, particularly for an era in which, as one of Theodore Sturgeon's characters somewhere notes, most science fiction was anti-science. (For all I know, most of it still may be.) Budrys' macho explorer is both self-deluding and self-destructive, while the scientist is as ruthless in his honesty as he is in his need to understand the world:

"We tear a gateway where no gateway has ever been," he said, nodding at the mechanisms, "in a wall we didn't build. That's called scientific investigation. Then we send men through the gate. That's the human adventure. And something on the other side - something that never bothered mankind; something that's never done us any harm before or troubled us with the knowledge that it was there - kills them. In terrible ways we can't understand, it kills them. So I keep sending in more men. What's that called, Sam?"

Friday, June 27, 2008

Madonna and Child

Child rights groups in Romania have had to appeal for tolerance among the purveyors of Christian love because an eleven-year-old victim of rape and incest has been generously granted the right to her own uterus. The girl was allegedly raped by her nineteen-year-old uncle, who has since disappeared. Twenty Christian Orthodox pressure groups have threatened to press charges - over the abortion, of course, not the rape; they have apparently offered "material, spiritual and psychological help" in ensuring that the radically immature mother and her unwanted child learn to bear their crosses with fortitude. They have even offered to raise the potential child in a church institution, assuming it survives the pregnancy which they wish to impose upon a child who is actually here; no price is too high for an eleven-year-old to pay if it means another orphan for Jesus. The official position of the Romanian Orthodox church is that "the decision should be left to the girl's family", who did such a splendid job of protecting her in the first place.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Straight Smith

The Minister of Incarceration and Deportation has congratulated the gay rights charity Stonewall for some "timely research" which showed that a fifth of gay and lesbian people have suffered homophobic abuse over the past three years. A sixth were physically assaulted, an eighth sexually groped, and nine-tenths verbally abused and harassed. Most of them did not complain to the police, because they did not expect the police to investigate the complaint. A third said they practised discretion, as recommended by Agent Smith, in order to avoid persecution. However, Agent Smith is "determined that lesbian and gay people should have the confidence to report crimes to the police knowing they will be taken seriously, the crime investigated and their privacy respected"; so presumably the recommendation was intended only for homosexuals who have committed the additional indiscretions of being brown and foreign.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

God Gave Them Up Unto Vile Affections

The Bishop of Rochester continues to do his bit in the battle to reduce the Church of England to its well-deserved place as an object of slightly disgusted ridicule. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali addressed the Global Anglican Future Conference, an alternative forum in Jerusalem for Anglican bishops who are boycotting the ten-yearly mumble at Lambeth for fear of rubbing up against a homosexual. He spoke for three-quarters of an hour without a script, "mirroring the style of the Archbishop of Canterbury who often relies on a lone Post-It when delivering lengthy speeches"; hence no doubt the Archbishop's reputation for clarity, or "nuance" as it is termed by those more Christian than myself. Dr Nazir-Ali, who has called for the Church to "work explicitly for the conversion of Muslims" in the interests of urban noise reduction, claimed that "Western culture depends on Judeo-Christian heritage", much as modern technology depends on stone tools, and called on Christians to "pray we are able to recover our Christian nerve in the west"; though, since the present loss of Christian nerve has presumably happened according to the will of Him without whose knowledge a sparrow cannot fall, the queer-bashers may have to wait a while for service. He also worried about the "danger of captivity and capitulation", namely the very same doctrinal insouciance and moral expediency which have allowed the Anglican communion to attain its present size. "The future of the Anglican Communion is to be found in its authentic nature", accessible no doubt to God, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali and selected chums, rather than in "recently invented innovations or explanations". The elements which now bind the Church together "were based on good English manners, and in our world, English manners are not enough." On the contrary, Dr Nazir-Ali's delightful blend of belligerent self-righteousness, reactionary simple-mindedness and post-imperial megalomania constitutes an encouraging sign that traditional English manners are just as robust as ever they were.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our Kind of Terrorist

A non-Muslim from Yorkshire has become one of the few people arrested under the anti-terror laws to be convicted of an offence related to terrorism. Martyn Gilleard, who is not a Muslim, had "four home-made nail bombs, bladed weapons, bullets and documents about terrorism" at his home. Fortunately for the safety of the world, at the time of his arrest he had not gained access to castor seeds or apple pips. This may account for the lack of screaming headlines in the tabloids, and explain why, in the light of his conviction, the Government has not announced plans to detain people without trial for 84 days.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Better Part of Valour

The Minister of Incarceration and Deportation has extruded some useful advice for homosexuals at risk of the death penalty from the Iranian theocracy: there is no real risk of discovery or "adverse action" provided they behave discreetly. It is difficult to imagine just how Agent Smith imagines people generally behave when their lives are at risk; it is possible that Iranian homosexuals dye their beards pink and call the ayatollahs "sweetie-pie" whenever opportunity permits, but I have my doubts. Agent Smith also believes that the Iranian government has executed "far fewer" sexual undesirables than the four thousand claimed by gay rights groups; the New New Labour appetite for demonising Tehran apparently having a smaller prioritisability enhancement factor than the New New Labour need to remove asylum seekers. New New Labour, wrote Agent Smith, recognises "that the conditions for gay and lesbian people in Iran – and many other countries – are such that some individuals are able to demonstrate a need for international protection," cunning fiends that they are; however, New New Labour does not "accept that we should make the presumption that each and every asylum-seeker who presents themselves as being of a particular nationality or sexuality, regardless of their particular circumstances, should automatically be ... allowed to remain in the UK", given that so many of them could have evaded trouble simply by being discreet. To pick some examples at random, if the nationalists in Tibet and the anti-Mugabe elements in Zimbabwe had only thought to keep their mouths shut, just think how much easier it would make things. Indeed, if all political dissidents and oppressed minorities would act with a bit more discretion, Agent Smith and her dawn raiders might never again have to deal with another asylum seeker. Then they could start on the rest of us.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Delicately Balanced Fundaments

The empty suit at the Ministry of Understanding A Little Less and Condemning A Little More has responded to the controversy over six-week internment in its usual measured fashion, by working itself into a lather over yet another aspect of the judicial system which is overdue for abolition. This time it's the right of defendants to know who is testifying against them. The Government has already announced a bill "introducing a statutory base for anonymous evidence - where witness intimidation is an issue"; but since the law lords have committed another indiscretion, the matter has become the suit's "major preoccupation", outweighing even the need to build more profitable prisons. "To see clearly guilty people walking free is just awful," mourned an assistant commissioner of the instant and utter Metropolitan Police, which is headed by someone called Blair. As a result, the suit is looking at the matter "very urgently indeed"; in fact, the suit was looking at the matter even as it spoke on the Today programme on BBC Radio, which may help to explain the level of coherence it achieved: "It's absolutely fundamental that defendants should be able literally to see and hear the evidence before them," it said. "But you then have to balance that with what actually happens in real life these days, where you've got very serious gun and drug crime where it's not just an individual will get a phone call." After all, court proceedings do not happen in real life, and fundamentals must always be balanced with the need to look tough in this morning's headlines. The suit insisted that the Government is "committed to ensuring there was a balance between the need for a fair trial and to ensure that defendants did not go free because of a culture of intimidation"; the need for a fair trial being so absolutely fundamental that it has to be weighed against the need to convict people.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Made it, Ma, Top of the World

A possible explanation for the inadequacy of British troops' equipment has emerged with the revelation that the good stuff is being sold to corrupt, repressive Islamic states. Digby Jones, the Minister of Profiteering, was ecstatic: "As demonstrated by this outstanding export performance, the UK has a first-class defence industry, with some of the world's most technologically sophisticated companies," he said. The guidelines covering arms sales, which dealers have been sniggering over since 1997, specify that sales should not be approved if they "risk contributing to internal oppression, external aggression, or regional tensions"; fortunately, Britain's place at the top of the arms sales league last year came about mainly thanks to a contract with Saudi Arabia called Salam, which is an Arabic corruption of the Zionist word Shalom, meaning peace. However, as with most of what remains of British industry, and despite the Government's zeal in curbing the anti-market activities of the Serious Fraud Office, last year's favourable performance is likely to be no more than a blip, since the figures "represent orders and not actual deliveries of equipment".

Friday, June 20, 2008

Doubtful Advice

The ex-Minister of Unfitness for Purpose, Charles Clarke, has expressed "very serious doubts" about locking people up for six weeks without charge. He wrote to Agent Smith before the recent vote, worrying that the bribes offered to Labour rebels would make the law unusable: "I remain very concerned about the possibility of ever using this power to extend to 42 days, so that the whole process is worthless from the point of view of national security," he said, apparently under the impression that anyone might care. He also warned that "the new law is likely to turn out to be entirely academic and the whole process will severely damage the fight against terrorism and will only bring discredit on the Government and the Labour Party". Obviously, this dashed well serves them right for not voting in the Vicar of Downing Street's original ninety-day limit, which Clarke unsuccessfully pimped to the Commons.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Secretary Sex Claim Drama Lawsuit Threat Horror

Gorgeous, pulsing secretary Randy Burnham has earned a stern rebuke from Gordon Brown after expressing dismay that people had been "seduced" by David Davis.

A spokesbeing for the Prime Minister said he had "full confidence" in raven-haired Randy, whose comments are said by Shami Chakrabarti to have been so tawdry that they debase even the office of Culture Secretary in a New New Labour government.

Gasping, gobbling Randy claimed that Mr Davis was indulging in "late-night, hand-wringing, heart-melting phone calls" with Ms Chakrabarti, who has threatened to sue over the perceived smear.

A spokesbeing for moist, quivering Randy said that he was pouting about "David Davis' inconsistent views on capital punishment and civil liberties", rather than implying anything that might intend to cause personal offence to anyone not unusually touchy and/or without something to hide.

It is not clear whether stonking, sweating Randy intended to imply that there was some inconsistency between Magna Carta and capital punishment, both of which were in force for several centuries before hanging was abolished in the 1960s, and both of which Mr Davis would like to see restored.

The Prime Minister, who has expressed "full confidence" in trembling, moaning Randy, is known for favouring twenty-first century methods of enforcement, such as arbitrary arrest, imprisonment without trial and moderate torture.

Under present legislation, Ms Chakrabarti cannot be deported.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Scribes and Pharisees

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have scribbled a joint statement of their "very great concern" about a ceremony in which two homosexual men exchanged rings and vows. Apparently the moral consequences of such an event are of an order of direness somewhere between the Iraq crusade, which is a cause of "deep concern" because it risks British troops and Iraqi Christians; and carrying out research in order to save lives, which is an activity somehow related to "rape, torture and blackmail" and may "open the way to a less consistently respectful attitude to life" than has hitherto been shown by the average middle-aged, middle class male celibate with an invisible friend. More importantly, the Anglican church's ten-yearly conference is approaching, and the Most Reverends are scrabbling desperately for some way of keeping the Nigerians, Ugandans and other Bible-bashers in the fold; a large and intolerant congregation being always better than a small and liberal one. The archbishops' statement noted that "Clergy who disagree with the Church's teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others [but they are] not at liberty simply to disregard it." Breaking the rules for the sake of what one believes to be right is certainly not something Christ would have done.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

There Is Such a Thing as Sociology

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has discovered something called "positive social norms", a sociological theory which "indicated that people often changed their behaviour by copying their neighbours", and which may possibly have gained some credence from the results of Daveybloke's years of close proximity to the Vicar of Downing Street and his Glorious Successor. Daveybloke was talking to some environmentalists today, so he was wearing his environmentalist face and speaking his environmentalist speak. Daveybloke proposed that gas and electricity bills ought to show "what a typical house in your street is spending", so people can decide that they'd rather spend less on energy and lower the average themselves, rather than leave the plasma TV on all night and let the neighbours worry about the bloody Arctic fox. Daveybloke also pledged to fix the standard of legal emissions for future coal power stations at the same level as modern gas power stations, which emit too much carbon. "This is intended to drive the introduction of carbon capture and storage technology", which will doubtless make coal even more cost-effective than it was when Daveybloke's sainted predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, closed all those pits some little time ago. Daveybloke also pledged that "the Conservatives would not drop their environmental agenda because of the economic downtown ... but neither would they neglect increasing financial pressures on people". The last bit seems unduly honest, so presumably it wasn't intended to come out the way it sounds.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Safe In Our Hands

If memory serves, hospital cleaners were among the first NHS services to be contracted out, in the name of increased efficiency and better patient care through the sterilising prism of competition and private enterprise. Doubtless it all works well enough for the right sort of people.

In other health sales news, those medically-qualified asylum seekers who have somehow slithered under the barricades are being prevented from practising their trade because they cannot afford to register. Since the Government cut off funding two years ago, hospitals have been forced to charge doctors for "unsalaried work experience", thus efficiently preventing many highly qualified people from contributing their necessary skills. Doctors are unable to pay for the privilege of working in the NHS, from which funding has been withdrawn so those doctors who could make up the staff shortfall cannot be paid. Meanwhile, the shortfall is helping to lower the standards of care which the Government will soon be using as an excuse to close more hospitals. The sheer Britishness of the arrangement verges upon the sublime.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Marching Orders

George W Bush has flown into London to enjoy a leg-hump from the Vicar of Downing Street and join the Glorious Successor in a bit of mutual limping and quacking. For instance, now that Israel and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, and Iran has been informed in no uncertain terms that it can ill afford to do without them, George plans to use his standing in the world to "head off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East". George is also giving Gordon his orders as regards bringing out the troops from Iraq. The orders are, of course, that it isn't going to happen: "I am confident that he, like me, will listen to our commanders", such as Dick Cheney and the good folks at Halliburton, "to make sure that the sacrifices that have gone forward won't be unravelled by draw-downs that may not be warranted at this point in time." Since the British government doesn't appear to mind how many sacrifices it has pushed forward, the extent to which they may be unravelled by unwarranted down-drawings could be hard to assess; fortunately George has some perspectivisation to provide. Although the casualties in Iraq have been serious enough to cause George personal pain, Iraqis are now living in a "free society" with a government elected under the auspices of a coalition that has shared values with, among others, Pinochet's Chile, Suharto's Indonesia, Somoza's Nicaragua and the House of Saud. Also, American and British troops are not "intentionally killing innocent people"; there has just been a lot of collateral damage. The idea that the Glorious Successor might imperil this glorious success by downdrawing his sacrifices and leaving a mere hundred and fifty thousand American troops to finish the job all on their ownsome - well, it just don't seem right. Still, Gordon has demonstrated his new, progressive agenda by "calling a voter who opposed the war and apologising 'for what happened to the people of Iraq'"; so there is no particular reason why he should risk actually doing anything about it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lead-Lined Pets

We're all fed up with dog demise, canary cremation and flushing the goldfish down the toilet. But, as governments struggle to adopt clean, safe and sustainable nuclear power, the problem of temporary pets and the heartbreak and grief they can cause has remained almost intractable. Until now.

New PermaPets™ from Reddon, Clewth and Tor are specially designed using the latest life sciences and patented genetic material to produce a pet that is not only lovably cute and cheerfully cuddly, but sustainable into the twenty-second century and beyond.

New PermaPets™ from Reddon, Clewth and Tor utilise New Gruff 'N' Tuff™ technology to enhance their natural defences against domestic accidents, sexual predators and innovative national energy sources. Barring cosmic accident or massive solar expansion, New PermaPets™ will never die or decay, thus eliminating the risk of untidy fossil remnants.

New PermaPets™ have been bred with Reddon, Clewth and Tor's unique lead-tungsten endoskeleton. This exclusive feature allows New PermaPets™ to withstand temperatures approaching those at the epicentre of a catastrophic road traffic impact fireball without losing their lovable cuddliness and cheerful cuteness.

New PermaPets™ from Reddon, Clewth and Tor are available in three irresistible incarnations with many more to come! Available for instant purchase are New SuperMutt®, MacroMoggy® and Extra-New Bionic Budgerigar which can penetrate the human skull faster than a bullet from a .357 Magnum revolver and leave a larger exit wound with minimal slowing on re-emergence.

New PermaPets™ run on cheap and affordable uranium batteries with minimal cancer risk. Do not expose New PermaPets™ to terrorists or strong earth tremors.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Yesterday in Parliament

The Lower Miliband has reassured intelligence service consumers that leaving secret documents on public transport is a "clear breach" of the rules, so the chap who did it must have done it without permission. He also had no authority to remove the documents from government premises, and by a cruel irony there were not enough CCTV cameras or security guards in the vicinity to prevent him. Fortunately, there is "no evidence to suggest vital national security interests had been damaged" as yet, or that there is any risk to anyone apart from the usual deserving cases.

Elsewhere, the Secretary for Talking About the Environment has observed the happy relationship between Gordon and the DUP and has offered bribes to "communities", or local councils in Oldspeak, for taking on "safe, secure and environmentally acceptable" nuclear waste dumps. The construction of the dumps will be a "multi-billion-pound high-tech project", which will "contribute greatly to the local economy" with "skilled employment for hundreds of people over many decades," thanks to the safety, security and environmental acceptability of the product in question.

Somewhere further down, in another interesting exchange on civil liberties, a minor Tory barked that there are too many dangerous dogs in the country, and that the Daveybloke administration will review the "ineffective" laws on the matter. The idea was rejected by someone or other on the grounds that the police have not made "full use" of existing powers. There's a lesson in there, somewhere.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Phishing for Attention

Date: Thu Jun 12 2008 1:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: see L | B E R A T E D tory oak farmyard impressions

Daer freedolmoving britishness rah rah

i am davisbloke i am shadowy Bloke i was riased bgy single Mother onn Concuil Etstate. I am One of You Bloke. i am britishness freedom loving british bloke I was rased by Snigle Mother on Conucil State. when Bogs are Razed by Single Mothers on Concilul Etsatae (like me Bloke) they cnan grow upp Brutal prejudiced bully on acccount of Too many benenfints and Lakck of Hanging & Flogging. Frotunatly i rose abobve my raisin g (by Sgingle Mother on Conocl state) and becmame Member of SAS and notnasy notnaty noynartsy not notnasrty not nastrty Consnervative Praty. i am even fiarly Goood with Coloured folks.

I am shdow Home bloke i am libertararian Bloke. i hvave decideded to Take Strand and and Riksks risk alll for Libearity!!!!! by puting my hmumble 5116 majnorinty on the Line & Run agin candate form from defeated mltuclulturil centrsit natsy euro punch and Jdudy Gordon Bastard Brown praty whihc has Stolen so many of our Clothes. i am Just a peice uin this graet Chess game white knighght or white bishsop take yr pick. her i Stadnd so hlep me rupert i cnan Feel the BritishNESS flow thru me. i was rAsed by sngle mthr on cncl stt. wee Had copropal Punchiment & no Humane WHites Act and i truned out just fine and notnatsty Tory.

Attn this is SEROUS this is a STANTD NOT A STUNDT.

rah rah

Davisbloke (Bloke) david

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Secret government documents about al-Qaida and the sovereign, independent Iraqi government's security forces were left on a train yesterday by a senior security official.

A passenger found the documents and handed them to the BBC's security correspondent, who used the incident in a blatant attempt to humiliate the Government in a Bolshevist propaganda exercise on which the Conservatives are already capitalising.

The incident will be seen by the Government as highlighting the crying evil of senior intelligence officers being forced to use public transport rather than taxpayer-funded Aston Martins with ejector seats and machine guns built into the headlamps.

Fortunately, the Government has today succeeded in getting its bill for six-week internment without charge through Parliament.

The Home Office has said that the powers in the bill, though of transcendental importance, are not actually intended for use. Still, the passing of the bill is thought to be a major victory in the war against terrorism, as it will further radicalise policemen and help senior intelligence personnel not to leave secret documents on trains.

Preparations for a new counter-terror bill, extending the period of detention to a random number of days somewhere between 49 and 90, are expected some time next month.

Meanwhile, the British intelligence industry is basking in its new-found sense of efficiency and purpose. "This is a blunt reaffirmation of British intelligence values," said intelligence spokesbeing Philby Maclean.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Don't Think Hypothermia, Think Opportunity

The Department of Human Resource Flexibility and Pensions Crisis has some good news for the Government; namely that the economic downturn is still affecting mainly those who don't matter very much. The number of pensioners living in poverty has risen by three hundred thousand in the past year: three times the figure expected by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The number of children living in poverty has increased by one hundred thousand, presumably because the Government is pledged to reduce it.

Predictably, the figures induced the requisite eructation of managerial positivism from the pensions minister Mike O'Brien: "Pensioners are facing challenges with rising food and fuel costs." When shareholders in a bank have their profits wiped out, it's a crisis; when pensioners have to choose between cold and hunger, it's a challenge. "We need to build on the progress of 2 million pensioners taken out of absolute poverty since 1997" - the pre-Blair experience of absolute poverty being presumably rather less comfortable than the New Labour experience of merely living below the poverty line.

O'Brien also pointed out that New New Labour is "working with energy companies to lower pensioners' fuel bills", provided that the energy companies are not unduly inconvenienced; and that there will be a one-off payment this winter, totalling fifteen per cent more than the cost of eight nearly functional military helicopters.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Craven Cops' Cowardly Custody Cavil

The threat level terror of the terror threat level of the level of terror threat to hard-working British resources was raised to hitherto unprecedented levels of threatened terror today as it was revealed that anti-counter-terror elements of the law enforcement community have denounced Government plans for not permitting terrorists to change our way of life.

Several members of the best police force in the world after Blackwater USA broke ranks to claim that the police industry does not have "a uniform professional view" of Government plans to preserve British values by interning people without charge for six weeks.

Senior CEOs in the police industry expressed concerns about potential damage to relations with the terrorist-grooming community and fear that detectives will be forced to fake evidence and then face the shame and degradation of not being sacked, demoted or prosecuted.

The Prime Minister has written to all Labour MPs, pleading for their support on the grounds that "it is better to prepare for the worst than simply hope for the best", as with the more terminal aspects of the Government's environmental policy.

Although ministers have neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of a Stalinist purge in the upper echelons of one of the best police forces in the world, the dissent in the enforcement community will inevitably lead to Government concern that elements of the police may potentially join the public in not knowing what is best for them.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Healthy Perspective

As the NHS approaches its sixtieth birthday - the age at which responsible citizens are encouraged to consider whether they intend to be a source of cheap labour or spend the rest of their lives on the scrap heap - the Secretary of State for Health Service Privatisation, Alan Johnson, is having a bit of a squeal about the scaremongering and misleading tactics of the evil BMA. "Controversy may well be caused by some GPs who fear greater choice for patients, worried that they themselves will lose out" when the Government sets up its titan clinics. In fact, the medical malls will be set up "in consultation with local people and driven by clinical evidence of what works", unless such evidence should have the bad taste to be contrary to the Government's decision. The evil BMA is speaking in "lurid and inaccurate terms" and indulging in "gross misrepresentation", claiming that the administration which has wreaked such wonders upon the education system, the transport system, the penal system and the armed forces might possibly be inclined to do something similar with the NHS. If there is one thing a New New Labour minister cannot stand, it is lurid inaccuracy and gross misrepresentation.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hard-Working Families

The chief executive of National Rail, Iain Coucher, has taken a staggering fourteen per cent reduction in his annual bonus. The remuneration committee decided that, despite the fiasco at the beginning of the year, he deserved all of his half-million-pound salary and eighty-six per cent of the bonus. Coucher will also receive about £200,000 as part of Network Rail's "long-term incentive plan" to keep fares at an appropriate level. The Office of Rail Regulation fined Network Rail fourteen million pounds for the fun and games at New Year, which made an appalling dent in the company's after-tax profit of one thousand, two hundred million pounds. Executive bonuses have been cut by a crippling five per cent across the board. It is not clear how many of Network Rail's executives will miss payments on their mortgages, or have to choose between heating and eating next winter, as a result; but no doubt the effect will be salutary.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Unsinkably Buoyant

The Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation is nothing if not optimistic. It expects the first of its Titanic jails to start steaming towards the iceberg by 2012, yet officials are still looking for a site and the designs are still being worked on. Let's hope we haven't deported all the Poles when the time comes to break ground.

The plan, if you'll excuse the euphemism, is for the prison to hold 2500 inmates "through planned overcrowding", since there will only be 2100 places. This will certainly help the overcrowding crisis. The design, once finished, "will incorporate biometric scanning, bar coding and electronic door locking systems into the fabric of the building"; in fact, the whole scheme sounds rather like a New New Labour dream home for the non-executive classes.

The ministry also claims that the Titanic generation of prisons is designed to last a hundred years "so the annual capital cost a place over its lifespan will be significantly less than the current cost of adding a houseblock to an existing jail". In standard English, this means that the chap at the Ministry who can do Microsoft Excel fed in the cost of adding a houseblock to an existing jail, added the annual cost of keeping 2500 inmates, and then knocked off the last two zeroes. The idea that any government could plan for conditions a hundred years into the future is ridiculous enough; New New Labour asks us to believe that it has some sort of social vision that reaches beyond its contractors' profits and the next issue of the Daily Mail. The Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation is nothing if not optimistic.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Displaced By Reason

The Archbishop of York, last seen here whining about Christmas cards and free parking for Sunday polluters, has been flogging the moral hobby-horse again.

Dr Sentamu is worried that "if religion is pushed out of public life it will lead to the triumph of greed and selfishness", rather than the selling of indulgences to the rich and the preaching of hellfire to the poor, as happened in the good old days. "If this is the direction which will shape our politics, moral responsibility will be displaced (sic) not by reason, science or ethics but by sheer consumerism," he said. "Human rights without the safeguarding of a God-reference tends to set up rights which trump others' rights when the mood music changes". Rather remarkably, he said it as a Christian addressing a Jewish institution. I suppose it is possible that the mood-music of, say, Ferdinand, Isabella and her God-referee Tomás de Torquemada had escaped his notice, what with the Christmas card holocaust and so forth; but it is rather hard to credit that even an archbishop of the Church of England can be ignorant of Jesus' own preference for sheep over goats, his implicit condoning of slavery, and his racist abuse of the Canaanite woman who, fortunately for her vexed daughter, was shrewd enough to return flattery for insult. Dr Sentamu doubtless provided copious examples to support his assertion that those without gods tend to have less regard for the rights of others than his own witch-burning, Jew-baiting, gay-bashing, crusading, misogynistic congregation; regrettably, the Torygraph appears to have had insufficient space to do them justice.

The Archbishop also criticised the Government for "sacrificing Liberty" while allowing "seemingly unfettered rights and entitlements"; and, with a similar degree of intellectual honesty, attacked "an abused form of equality ... based on diktat and bureaucracy" while claiming moral supremacy for the Church, a government-sponsored bureaucracy based on the diktats of a megalomaniac Bronze Age djinn, a royal pretender from the eastern fag-end of the Roman Empire, and the sordid expediencies of a Tudor tyrant. The danger of Dr Sentamu's personal morals being displaced by reason, science or ethics appears to be minimal.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Medicine Men

The Government's latest proposal on privatising the NHS, which is to be sharply distinguished from any similar, identical or otherwise indistinguishable proposals on privatising the NHS which may be put forward by Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, has been criticised by the chairman of the British Medical Association consultants' committee, Jonathan Fielden. In yet another radical new initiative, precision-tooled and scalpel-honed to make the NHS the best NHS in the world subject to those economic considerations which the Government may consider to be economically considerable, New New Labour has issued a document called Developing the NHS Performance Regime, ordering health authorities to "identify failing trusts in their area, remove failing board members and bring in new management, including from other hospitals or the private sector". This is vintage New New Labour: if it isn't working, shuffle the suits about. "As the prime minister made clear in his speech in January, we will not tolerate under-performance in the NHS," quoth the placebo that walks like a person, Ben Bradshaw. Under-performance by the private sector in such trivial matters as national transport, the penal system and hospital hygiene are presumably beyond Bradshaw's remit: one of the many convenient features of privatisation when the issue is considered from the point of view of those who really matter.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bottom Feeders

Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives have had a wizard wheeze about voluntary organisations. Daveybloke has been reiterating his claim (or "belief", as the journalistic telepath hath it) that the Conservatives can believe there is such a thing as society for long enough to win the next election: "when it comes to social reform and the role of the state ... there is such a thing as society, it's just not the same thing as the state". Now that there is so little left to privatise, social reform is not the business of government; it's the business of bottom-up people who are socially responsible, like private companies and the profiteering faction of the charitable sector.

Under the forthcoming Daveybloke administration, charities will be able to make "substantial" profits from running public services, and will "compete to provide services on an equal footing with private firms"; the playing field having first been levelled by the charities' becoming private firms in all but name. The public will also be stimulated to rectify its "flagging levels of donations", so that the Daveybloke administration can claw back a bit more funding for the tax cuts; and Daveybloke himself will "ask the public sector to give their staff time off to carry out voluntary work" for the profit of the newly-profitable charitable organisations, since, as we all know, public sector workers don't have enough to do and private sector workers are too valuable to waste.

Monday, June 02, 2008

They Say, and Do Not

The Bishop of Stafford has demonstrated one of the perils of taking the moral high ground: if you throw a sufficiently idiotic hissy-fit, you might just tumble off it. The Right Reverend Gordon Mursell has drawn an analogy between the failure of "people" to do more about climate change and the crimes of Josef Fritzl, who repeatedly raped his daughter and imprisoned her in a basement for twenty-four years along with the children he fathered on her. "I am in no way trying to imply that people who ignore climate change are child abusers," the Bishop said; but on the other hand, "you could argue that, by our refusal to face the truth about climate change, we are as guilty as he is - we are in effect locking our children and grandchildren into a world with no future and throwing away the key". Apparently the idea is that people should take thought for the morrow, the evil thereof being these days insufficient to the day. The Bishop tactfully refrained from naming any of the culpable, it being no part of his moral duty to speak truth to the kind of people who derive material profit from car use and consumerism.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Community Custodialisation, Juvenile Disoffensivisation

A government report notes that, despite all the new offences on the statute books, despite ASBOs and the privatisation of the penal system, despite putting children in jails where only a few are permitted to carry out DIY death-penalties on themselves, and despite the saintly examples provided by the business and ministerial communities, juvenile reoffending rates are "very high and have not significantly changed" since New Labour came to power. Ministers apparently disagree over the possibility of moving towards a more "liberal" system which might "be seen as soft on crime and play badly with the public at a time when concerns about juvenile violence are on the rise", despite ten years of attempts by New Labour and the nation's voice of moral sanity, Paul Dacre, to put matters into perspective. As might be expected among the present day's political luminaries, the argument has Straw on one side and Balls on the other.

The shadow justice minister, whose party believes in building more jails, privatising the penal system, and subjecting young offenders to more hanging, flogging and yelling, registered the usual displeasure that New Labour and its successor, New New Labour, have failed to implement correctly the policies they stole from the Conservatives.