The Curmudgeon


Monday, August 31, 2009

Borderline Humanity

In yet another last-ditch effort to pacify its core vote in the Mail and Murdoch camp, New New Labour has released a "snapshot" from its brilliant if sometimes rather darkly coloured album of child incarceration. Fuller figures have not been made available, presumably as a precaution against the sort of public obduracy which has led to so many unnecessary difficulties with such projects as Operation Iraqi Liberation, the various Surveillance Makes You Free schemes and the gradual removal of fripperies like public healthcare from the agenda of the NHS.

Nevertheless, the snapshot discloses that on 30 June this year four hundred and seventy minors, most of them under five, were in detention with their families. Almost a third were held for longer than twenty-eight days, with the signed authority of a minister. Fifty-six per cent of those held were released back into the UK, "their detention having served no purpose other than wasting taxpayers' money and traumatising the children involved", according to one demographic swamping condonement resource. This is almost certainly unfair, since the detentions in question very likely helped to increase the profits of Serco, a leading provider of integrated service solutions in the worldwide defence and aerospace markets and co-manager, with two other disinterestedly competent parties, of Britain's Atomic Weapons Establishment. Serco took over the running of Yarl's Wood detention centre in 2007, and is committed to "developing the centre into a recognised centre of excellence for detaining females and families in a safe and secure environment". The word females is a particularly eloquent evocation of Serco's humane and tactful handling of this particular category of toxic waste.

A spokesbeing for the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation declared that "UK Border Agency fully recognises its responsibilities towards children but these responsibilities have to be exercised alongside our duty to enforce the laws on immigration and asylum", the said laws being self-evidently impossible for a government with an absolute parliamentary majority to change in any way. Daveybloke's Cuddly Minister for Wog Disposal described the Government's attempts to find alternative punishments for asylum seekers as "feeble", before making the not unfeeble observation that something better and cheaper might be more expedient for the national pride.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

One of the Bad Men

An Islamic convert, trained in violence and with a record of collaborating in the human rights violations of a rogue state, has been prevented from entering the country on the grounds that he is unemployed and is not a sufficiently active participant in his own country's housing market. Although the potential suicide bomber's ticket had been paid for by a coagulation of bleeding hearts, officials were worried that he might seize his opportunity to take unfair advantage of Britain's booming economy, generous welfare state and lack of border controls. The traitor to British-Saudi values was due to address a meeting of Magna Carta fanatics and other reactionary forces, with the result that at least one pressure group director has already been harassing immigration officials with claims that their actions "would look like vindictiveness". Yet worse, the jihadi himself has somehow been allowed to vent his racist bile upon the feral beast of the British press. Scornfully dismissing Britain's proud heritage and almost-functional transport system with the claim that he "will never come back to Britain after this", the Talibanised resource also shrugged off Britain's dedicated scapular adhesiveness in the war on terror by stating that "the UK has been an ally of the US, but has not been an active participant in some of the things the US had been doing". Well, of all the cheek.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Holy Mystery

The man who apparently kidnapped an eleven-year-old girl, kept her prisoner for eighteen years, raped her and forced her to bear him two children "wanted to set up his own ministry of God"; and, of course, if he shows sufficient aptitude for self-publicity, he may yet succeed. He has already been interviewed on local radio, proclaiming that after the birth of his daughters, "I completely turned my life around. Wait 'til you hear the story of what took place at this house, you are going to be absolutely impressed." He does seem to have shown an impressive dedication to the girls' purity, protecting them from both medical interventionism and the perils of education. There probably isn't a Jehovah's Witness in the world who could claim better. Nevertheless, remarkably few clerics of any denomination have come forth to emphasise the good he did or to praise his courage in permitting himself to be caught. Now, I wonder why that could be.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Behold, We Are A Podcast

The mighty Michael Greenwell, author of the über-rainbow guide to Nepal, has started casting pods. His first features a civilised conversation in a Camden Town pub with a shamefully under-reviewed English writer who held forth on literature, politics, the Press, Douglas Adams and his own near-total ignorance of the city in which he lives, all the while having absolutely no idea that he sounded like that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The ancient Library of Alexandria, which was destroyed twice for the glory of Rome and once for the wisdom of Christianity, has been resurrected as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Despite its being in Egypt, just slightly on the wrong side of the clash of civilisations, several aspects of the enterprise display gratifying hints of New New Labour Britishness. For one thing, so much has been spent on the shelves that it may be eighty years before the library can afford to fill them: an achievement worthy of the Private Finance Initiative. For another, Egypt has even higher levels of poverty and illiteracy than Britain after thirty years of Thatcherism, yet its government has chosen to spend two hundred and twenty million dollars on a huge centralising effort rather than on general education. Thirdly and most charmingly, thanks to the size of the library, which places its users at the risk of imminent starvation, the humanistic cultural ideals of the gorgeous Randy Burnham are to be put into practice, with six separate companies being permitted to open stores in a "sensitively designed" food area. There are rumours that McDonald's will be allowed to open a branch, although the library has denied this and its public relations director has said that "no logos or brand names will be visible". Nevertheless, accusations persist from prominent bloggers and people on Facebook, whose claims tend to become more plausible in the eyes of the enlightened western media when they are posted from the other side of the clash of civilisations.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Worthy Heir

Andy Coulson, the ex-editor of the News of the World and now Daveybloke's chief advisor on communications and personal dignity, is certainly earning his pay in matching sub-Blairite style to Blairite-style substance. After what presumably seems to Coulson and himself to be a decent interval (forty-eight hours, give or take a few), the Cuddly Conservative has once more been waving the corpse of his child around. In an interview with Grazia magazine (during which he also mentioned his recovery from a difficult adolescence, evidently through sheer strength of character), Daveybloke "paid an emotional tribute" to his disabled son, who died in February and five months later was cited among his father's qualifications for simplifying the benefits system for deserving parents. Not surprisingly considering his obvious estimation of their value to his public image, Daveybloke would like more children, "but we'll have to wait and see if the stork drops one off". It has not as yet been vouchsafed whether Daveybloke can match his mentor's five times a night; but Coulson and his colleagues are doubtless working on it, along with a couple of hundred thousand tasteful cuddly Ivans-on-a-stick for the party conference in October.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Healthy Climate

A minister in the Department of Delays, Cancellations and Carbon had a private tryst with the head of Britain's largest airport owner a week before the 2007 Climate Camp protest.

The minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, whose name decodes as "an aristocratic bastard who is a follower, supplanter or deceiver", was assured by BAA's chief executive that BAA and the Metropolitan Police, which is noted for its tact and subtlety, had been working closely to ensure that the protesters' rights were respected to a degree appropriate in the circumstances.

"It is nonsense to suggest that the DfT influenced the policing of this demonstration," a spokesbeing for the Department for Profitable Transport said. Experts are thought to be concluding from this that the Government was content for any influencing to be done by BAA.

Before last year's Climate Camp protest, against the Kingsnorth power station in Kent, trusted apparatchiki from the Department for Bonus Extraction and Regulatory Circumvention gave confidential police information on activists to the owner of the cuddly-coal-powered plant.

It is thought that this departmental consideration may have prevented many serious potential injuries among the brave boys who were called upon to do their difficult job in circumstances involving fingers, possible wasps and sitting in cars.

The right to peaceful protest, like free public health and proper state education, is one of many features of the British way of life which New New Labour is keen to talk about respecting.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Sure Mercies of David

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has been doing his public health thing, promising to be jolly tough on industries which make profits from harming people's capacity to be refused sickness benefit. Daveybloke took the opportunity to wave his dead son about once more, on the nearly rock-solid principle that no bereaved parent would be prepared to tolerate unnecessary suffering. Dead-baby politics aside, Daveybloke rejects New New Labour's "top-down, state control" approach of delivering sanctimonious lectures to the proles while allowing big business to do more or less as it likes, and instead favours "responsibility deals" with profiteers, which would enable big business to do more or less as it likes while relieving the proles of opportunities to indulge their more unpleasant habits. In a concerted effort to bring the business community into line, the Daveybloke administration will call for, urge and propose and, as a last resort, may possibly be moved to threaten legislation. Bringing the proles into line, by contrast, will be a simple, non-state-controlled, bottoms-up matter of raising taxes on alcohol and further restricting the hours during which it can be sold, on the almost equally rock-solid principle that drinkers can be relied upon to control their addiction when their fiscal welfare is affected.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In Case It Wasn't Clear

In case it wasn't clear, the Upper Miliband has denied with uncompromising categoricality that the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has any connection whatever with British commercial interests. To imply that any consideration was given to the profits of BP, Shell, British Gas, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, British service companies or the Kenneth Clarke Cancer Consortium would be a slur upon the Upper Miliband and a slur on the Government which the Upper Miliband not only serves, but has bungled taking over on at least one occasion. The Upper Miliband has stated with categorical scrupulosity that the British Government's sayings in this matter have been sayings of scrupulous uncompromisicality: "We have been scrupulous in saying this decision should be made by the Scottish authorities; we have been scrupulous in saying that to the Libyans, we have been scrupulous in saying that to the Americans." If there is one activity over which New New Labour can be said to be scrupulous now and then, it is in saying things to people.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mad Dog Brought to Heel

North Africa trembles as Brown makes presence felt on international stage

Colonel Gaddafi, the mad dog turned Tony-crony, was reportedly quaking in his boots today after receiving a letter from Gordon Brown, who has temporarily assumed the office of British prime minister while Lord Mandelson is in hospital having his genitals reduced to a more manageable size.

As the threat of perestroika caused anxiety in the Reagan administration in the mid-1980s, Gaddafi's Libya was high on the shortlist for the mantle of Pentagon Great Satan, along with the dagger pointed at the heart of Texas, Nicaragua.

However, under Tony Blair's premiership Britain reached out to Libya and agreed to take Gaddafi's word that Libyan asylum seekers whom Britain chose to deport would not be tortured once they arrived back in Libya.

A demonstration of non-torture for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, apparently got out of hand in Tripoli last night, prompting Gordon Brown to send a letter which was "very short and to the point". A more long-winded and meandering missive is probably being held in reserve in order to protect Arab sensibilities, sources said.

Megrahi was released from British custody on compassionate grounds. The British Secretary for Lesser Breeds, David Miliband, has said that it would be a slur upon New Labour's long record of principled compassion in general, and upon David Miliband's in particular, to imply that any commercial or diplomatic interests were considered for a moment.

As a result of Megrahi's welcome in Tripoli, it is now unlikely that Prince Andrew will attend the celebrations next month of the fortieth anniversary of the Libyan revolution, or the mad dog's coup d'état as it was known before the Blair clarifications.

If there are further breaches of decorum, it is thought that sanctions even more serious than the absence of Prince Andrew will be considered.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

They Dance Tonight

That arm around her waist, so firm and strong,
Will gain a greater rigour before long.

That profile would put any girl in rut;
Shrapnel and wire will make it cleaner cut.

That open heart within that breast so broad
Will open wider once it's drilled and bored.

White evening frocks to uniforms will yield,
Unmindful of red dressings in the field.

The grind of training over now, they mill;
They dance tonight, who soon shall be so still.

Glusher Hulbluckett

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Small Soldiers

The Metropolitan Police have been doing their bit for our alienated youth by stopping and searching children under "terrorism powers designed to fight al-Qaida"; or, in Standard English, powers designed in such a way that they can be used to fight just about anybody except (a) the principal causes of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and (b) the Metropolitan Police. Ten girls and forty-eight boys under the age of ten, and over two thousand children aged fifteen or under, were stopped and searched last year. The Guardian's report tactfully refrains from noting how many of the children searched were of the dusky-epidermis persuasion, and how many were of superior Britishness. In any case, it is a sad indication of the Met's plummeting morale that not a single one was shot, even though none were found to be involved in terrorism.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Question of Priorities

Now that President Obama has decided that health care reform is perhaps a little less important than previously thought if it means he gets called ugly names, the Republicans will be seeking his opponent for 2012 with a renewed sense of possibility. One likely candidate is on trial at the moment for putting her own home and hearth above the interests of a man convicted of the rape and murder of a woman; and not just any woman, mark you, but a mother of seven, a breeder of the soldiers and stockbrokers of tomorrow. The murderer's lawyer was trying to file an appeal for a stay of execution, as the supreme court had cast doubt on whether it was constitutional to strap a man down, paralyse him and stop his heart from beating. The supreme court seems to have thought that such treatment might amount to cruel and unusual punishment; certainly it is unusual for white people, at least in comparison with blacks and Hispanics. The lawyer asked the judge, Sharon Keller, to keep the courthouse open past its usual closing time because of a delay resulting from a computer problem; Keller, who was busy dealing with a repairman at the aforementioned home and hearth, said: "We close at 5pm", and Texas justice was duly served. Apparently the judge is expected to "note the incongruity of her 15-year career being threatened" simply because she may have failed to administer the law properly. She has already said that the computer malfunction was not properly explained to her, and that if it had been she "would have started thinking in a different direction". But, since it wasn't, what the hell.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Literary Matters

The Sunday Murdoch's report of the sensational discovery by William Golding's biographer that the great man confessed to having let his hormones get the better of him as a teenager has elicited a peculiar response from one Kathryn Hughes, a biographer of Mrs Beeton. Hughes notes that sensational revelations about hitherto hallowed subjects tend to overshadow serious scholarship: "the downside of your biographical subject being 'outed' - as a drinker, fighter, whoremonger or whatever - is that it may take away any chance of your book getting the kind of thoughtful critical response that all proper writers crave", at least in the Murdoch press. But what proper writer would look to any newspaper at all, let alone to the Murdoch press, for a thoughtful critical response to anything? Book reviews in the newspapers are thoughtful, serious and scholarly to about the same extent as the news and analysis are careful, informed and sober; which is to say, to the extent that they will sell newspapers; which is to say, not much. A proper writer hoping for a thoughtful critical response will turn rather to proper critics (whose work may, by occasional happy coincidence, appear in newspapers too) and leave the journalists to their huckstering, while perhaps nursing a guilty hope that a few extra copies may be sold, if not actually read, thereby.

Biographical self-pity aside, Hughes makes the sensible point that rape eighty years ago, when men were meant to be men and girls were meant to say no, might not have been the deliberate and unequivocal brutality which the term now implies: "Could it not, instead, be better described as a botched seduction scene which took place between two teenagers living at a time when sexual knowledge was something you had to acquire unofficially, often in fear and loathing?" Having supplied this thoughtful and serious perspective, Hughes complains that Golding's readers, being the sort of people who dismissed Kathryn Hughes as the woman who gave Mrs Beeton the clap, are probably too stupid to understand it: "Even the most scrupulous readers of Golding's work will find it hard to get the image of the author-as-rapist out of their mind when they settle down to re-read his work. When it comes to Lord of the Flies perhaps this is not such a bad thing", since obviously a novel about violence acquires a certain extra thoughtfulness and seriousness in the scholarly critic's mind if its author has a violent reputation. On the other hand, "when one delves into Golding's other novels, including subtle metaphysical work such as Pincher Martin and Darkness Visible, the idea of the author not as a sage and evolved soul but as a panting teenager is really not all that helpful". Fortunately, since the author was no longer a panting teenager when he wrote those books, it is possible that critics less scholarly than Kathryn Hughes may overcome the handicap.

Speaking of subtle and metaphysical works, Tjerk, who is one of this weblog's most long-standing and charitable commenters, has posted a long and generous review of my Satanic Supplement, in which he hints at some of my messier hobbies without being so crude as to state them explicitly. I thank him most sincerely for his kindness and discretion, and beg to direct your attention to the various other facets of my genius: from the medical through the socio-political to the eschatological and the public-transport-oriented counterfactual. Shop early for Christmas, give your loved ones no peace, and review with either scholarly insight or effective salesmanship, according to your inclination.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Healthy Debate

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has been forced to undertake the traumatic measure of making a policy statement after one of his more traditionally-minded comrades went on Fox News to educate our oldest and closest ally about the horrors of the National Health Service. Daveybloke has "pledged to preserve the health service, and to increase spending on it, without subjecting it to radical structural reform", presumably because he finds the present state of affairs - PFI, postcode lotteries, staff demoralisation and so forth - eminently satisfactory. Since the upstart was a member of the European parliament rather than the real one, Daveybloke was quick to brand him an "eccentric", by which he presumably meant to imply that such people constitute a rare and exotic aberration in the party of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Nadine Dorries, Anthony Steen, Peter Viggers, Iain Duncan Smith, Ann Widdecombe, Michael Howard, William Hague, George Osborne and, after the 2010 election and an almost decent interval, quite possibly Lord Mandelson of Foy and Deripaska. Nevertheless, the renegade apparently has some support among those of Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives who believe that New New Labour's policy of using the NHS as a front for profiteering by private corporations does not go quite far enough. Several of Daveybloke's Cuddly Cabinet, and a score of upright members in both the European and the genuine Parliament, are on record as supporting the view that the NHS is "no longer relevant in the twenty-first century" and that it should be replaced by a system of private healthcare for those who can afford it, viz. the sort of system which is in the process of breaking down in our oldest and closest ally. The most prominent among them, such as Greg Clark, Daveybloke's Cuddly Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, and Jeremy Hunt, Daveybloke's Cuddly Secretary for Cultchah, Meedjah and It's Not The Winning It's The Taking Part, were naturally "unavailable for comment last night", since it is a rare and exotic emergency which requires members of Daveybloke's Cuddly Cabinet to know what policy their party intends to pursue once power has been defaulted to it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Helping Hands, Sticky Fingers

Local government in the Turks and Caicos islands, a British overseas territory in the Atlantic, has been suspended for two years so that the government of Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelbrot the Infinitely Recurring can put things "back in good order". The governor of the islands claimed that the idea was "to make a clean break from the mistakes of the past by establishing a durable path towards good governance" of the kind which the Glorious Successor has instituted at home and which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office supports in Uzbekistan; "sound financial management" with appropriate bonuses, legitimate expenses and reasonable pensions for those who can afford them; and "sustainable development", doubtless consisting of a few more airports and a nuclear power station or two. There have even been allegations that certain developments on the islands are "the product of corrupt deals between local politicians and foreign businessmen". No wonder the intimate friends of Rupert Murdoch and Oleg Deripaska have had to step in with a strong, purgative dose of Saudi-British values. Nevertheless, the islands' media have "accused the British government of having double standards on the issue of corruption", and their Sun newspaper (no relation to ours, presumably) has "contrasted the UK's tough stance on the islands with the MPs' expenses scandal at Westminster". Imagine that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Menschliches, Allzumenschliches

Britain's leading liberal newspaper, where comment is free but facts are sacred, has a data blog of British dead and wounded in Afghanistan, month by month. The number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan now exceeds the number killed in Iraq, a war which Britain's leading liberal newspaper has generally considered at least mildly disagreeable. Today's entry notes, with an irony so sophisticated as to be almost military, that "We've broken Afghanistan down month-by-month", and sets out the classification of British personnel killed, British personnel seriously wounded, British personnel registered at field hospitals and British personnel evacuated by air. These figures are the answer Britain's leading liberal newspaper has for the question: "What is the human cost of the war in Afghanistan?" Naturally, one would not expect Britain's leading liberal newspaper to count the debased, primitive, Talibanised semi-orcs whom the human cost have been sent to civilise; but I had not realised until now that Obama's election had made the American personnel as über as all that.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Criminal Resorts

Last year, the children's charity Barnardo's reported that Britain was imprisoning more children than any European country except Russia and Ukraine. This year, the children's charity Barnardo's reports that more than a third of twelve-to-fourteen-year-olds who are imprisoned are probably being imprisoned illegally.

The Government, with its usual clarity of thought and speech, and doubtless its usual concern for the flexibilitisation of the offender management market, has specified that children should be given custodial sentences only as a "last resort", but has not bothered to specify what other resorts must be eliminated beforehand. "We are pleased this report recognises our clear policy that under-18s should only be locked up as a last resort, especially in the case of younger children," said a spokesbeing for the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation. "It is a fundamental part of the justice system that individual sentencing decisions are a matter for the independent judiciary"; of course we all know how New New Labour treasures the idea of an independent judiciary. In some cases the independent judiciary's individual definition of "last resort" has been commendably market-oriented: some children are being put in prison because there are not enough resources to put them in "Community Payback" jackets. The spokesbeing for the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation advertised the "range of tough community sentences available for young offenders", though apparently not available to those who are responsible for seeing the sentences enforced; and noted that "latest statistics show that 97% of under-18s do not receive a custodial sentence", which apparently disposes of the argument that any of the three per cent who do receive a custodial sentence should have been treated otherwise.

Half of those surveyed were victims of abuse, and more than a third were living with an adult criminal; both situations which a spell in the clink will ameliorate no end.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nor Scrip For Your Journey

Officials of the Christian Civil War's ascetic wing have warned their fellow Italians against the local lottery, in which over a hundred million pounds stand to be won, apparently without the participation of the god by whose will the Vatican does not starve. According to Britain's leading liberal newspaper, the lottery "plays on Italy's superstitious fondness for numerology, particularly in the south", in contrast to the wholly rational popularity of the National Lottery in the United Kingdom, enthusiasts of which calculate their chances according to the laws of higher mathematics and receive their prizes with the civilised gravitas one would expect from the nation that gave the world Rebekah Wade, Paul Dacre and Richard Littlejohn. The Italian superstition about numbers is "a thorn in the side of church leaders", perhaps because it reminds them of a certain unpleasant animal with seven heads and ten horns, and on the horns ten crowns, or another undesirable organism with a name which is numbered six hundred and sixty-six.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The B Vocabulary

Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor, George Osborne, has discovered that "progressive" is rather a jolly thing to be thought of as being, and has spent some time on the internet in search of useful quotations to back up his party's claim to the adjective.

"In a progressive country," said Disraeli, "change is constant, and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws, and the traditions of a people", not to mention the expediency of a Disraeli, a Deripaska, a Murdoch or an Osborne. Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor does not appear to have mentioned the formula for distinguishing inevitable from avoidable change, or to have noticed that the United Kingdom consists of several different peoples with several different sets of manners, customs, laws and traditions; doubtless some inevitable compromise is being worked out between warm beer and cricket on the one hand, and the Blatcherite profiteers' police state on the other.

Edmund Burke apparently claimed that society is "a partnership not only between those who are living but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born", provided they are the sort of people with whom a Deripaska, a Murdoch, an Osborne or some other Burke could enter into a mutually profitable alliance. There is, thinks Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor, "nothing remotely progressive about tearing up that partnership"; and, of course, Daveybloke has recently made plain the political advantages of combining the dead with the infantine.

On education, Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor pointed to Sweden, where "new providers" (I am not certain of the Standard English translation, but I suspect that corporations and religious propagandists would not do too much violence to the gist) found innovative ways of making money go further. "They negotiated contracts on premises, IT and textbooks which reduced costs, liberating more money to spend on teaching and learning"; since, as we all know, premises, IT and textbooks have nothing to do with teaching and learning.

A spokesbeing for the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick "Who?" Clegg, said that Osborne had "misunderstood" the concept of progressiveness. In fact, the word is like any other which has the misfortune to be sucked into the active vocabulary of a political functionary: as with such terms as democracy, reform, centre-left, centre-right, moderate, extremist and torture, it has no meaning at all beyond expressing the favourable or unfavourable opinion of the duckspeaker who quacks it. Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor claims that he is a progressive because he believes in "change"; i.e. progress towards a more efficient welfare state for corporations. Lord Mandelbrot the Infinitely Recurring claims that he is a progressive because he believes in the same thing as George Osborne, and that George Osborne is not a progressive because Lord Mandelbrot does not regard it as expedient to be seen to be in agreement with Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor. Meanwhile, the spin continues to planet out of control.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mein Kampf: An Appreciation

As we approach the anniversary, on 3 September, of the Real Start of World War Two (Czechoslovakia being a price worth paying, Manchuria an encouraging sign of dawning Japanese enlightenment, and Dachau and Kristallnacht little more than useful post facto excuses), the Central Council of Jews in Germany has taken the sensible step of recommending the re-publication of Mein Kampf. Originally titled, with its author's characteristic restraint and self-effacement, Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice: Account Settled, it was, according to the Independent's Berlin correspondent, written by Hitler while serving a four-year prison term. In fact, thanks to the general level of enthusiasm for the Weimar constitution which the Allies had imposed in 1919, Hitler had been allowed to turn the treason trial for his attempted coup in November 1923 into a political grandstand, and what he served of his sentence (about thirteen months) was served under much the sort of unoppressive conditions which our present-day tabloid stormtroopers like to fantasise for asylum seekers and paedophiles. Also Hitler, who preferred oratory to writing, did not exactly write Mein Kampf, but mostly ranted it at his poodle Rudolf Hess, who took down his master's words for posterity. Hence the book's near-total disorganisation: the numbered lists of points that don't stay in sequence, the hundreds of solecisms painstakingly counted by some stout-hearted Teutonic grammarian, and above all the utter lack of anything approaching a cogent argument or a coherent programme. The only part which crawls out of the rhetorical murk is, significantly, a few pages devoted to the methods and techniques of propaganda. Here Hitler is talking about what he knows, rather than what he wants people to think he knows, and his observations are lucid, systematic and concise. For the rest, Mein Kampf is a supremely interesting read for anyone who wants to understand Hitler, but probably rather hard going for those who are looking for moral or political shock value or, worse yet, the light of revelation. As I discovered during my struggle to get through Ralph Manheim's translation some years ago, the book is pompous, windy, half-baked, petty-minded, mean-spirited and crude. Hence, not only should it be in print; it should be taught in the schools. Children should be given exercises to pick out the grammatical errors, count up the lists that go nowhere, point to the evasions and illogicalities and falsehoods, and thereby acquire some sense of the character and personality of its ridiculous little author and, wondering whether to laugh or throw up, compare it with the reputation he has gained through the awe-inspiring crimes of the régime he led. Tout comprendre, c'est tout moquer. To show a man ludicrous is to cure many a potential emulator for life.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Phishily Rendered

Date: Sun Aug 09 2009 9:00am Europe/London
To: database-recipients::
Subject: big flihghty birds exqisiitley rendered

dear Collleafge Sir or madam

thnank yuo fro yuor Rceent Inquirey abt misssing Pappers cornercning Overseas Holdiday Fligts. we at Birtish Foreingngn Offcice are awlways Plsd 2dael wth Inquirys particulararlily abt Foriegners Pappers. let me say frist and i will frist say this hat yhat that Biritsh Govt dose Not colllude codnone or concede Use of Troture in any Ways hape shape or From We are cocnernenred Only to prottect from Terror. In Prottetcing from Terrror teh Brittish Govt has Speard No expnse fro Tasers idcrads Best dattabas Best survbvln surviolance urbsveilance Ever we know where you Live thnak you fro yuour Inqurey.

however in teh itnereststs iof Prottecting fro terrrrrr and uour Way of life we are regrrtably Inabilititised ot ot to porvide asssssurances abt Ships achnored nr Dago Garcia Brtttish Terrortry whch Britshit Govonmont bont bot buought in Good Fiath from mauritians rah rah. aslo rgrt infrom yuo taht msssing Pappers cotnitnude Missssing as Of teh presnt momnument in Time poss Lfeltf lfet felf lfeft on Train fror Securitity Prupopses or eatan by Dog.

i Hop e tihs answeres yr croncerns. Yuour Inqiririrs ar Improtant to us. pls take a momonent to leaeve Feedback adn anklnolwedge tthat this massage was Dipsnatched wihththin Bitrish Govt. traget pernod.Period.

Do Not Wrorry We Know Where Yuo Live.

Yrs snicsnerely

Al andd Daveyband (Still Here)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

It's Only the Law, After All

Eight months ago the European Court of Britishness Erosion ruled that New New Labour was unlawfully breaching the human rights of eight hundred and fifty thousand people who had been arrested but not convicted of any offence by keeping their fingerprints and DNA profiles on a national database. New New Labour has responded as one would expect from a government which trumpets the rule of law and claims to believe that Britain's place is at the heart of Europe, by advising its senior policemen to ignore the ruling. The Ministry of Domestic Snoopery and Thuggery has proposed, as a compromise measure between the illiberality it is allowed and the illegality it wants, that DNA profiles of innocent people should be kept on police databases for six to twelve years, "depending on the seriousness of the offence" which has not been committed, and with New New Labour's special brand of calm, statesmanlike rationality squealed at the House of Donors that no delay in passing the necessary legislation could be afforded. It is even possible that the Ministry of Domestic Snoopery and Thuggery may face a "surge of pressure" from selfish and backsliding persons who for some strange reason (perhaps some peculiar cultural quirk having to do with being young, male and of a not un-off-white persuasion) find it difficult to understand why the police should be holding information about them when they have not been convicted of doing anything wrong. The Ministry has apparently drafted guidelines which follow the European ruling; but these "are not expected to take effect until 2010", and it is evidently the Ministry's duty to dissuade the police service (sic) from being over-zealous in conforming to what is, after all, merely a set of guidelines drafted by the Ministry: "decisions to remove records should not be based on [the government's] proposed changes. It is therefore vitally important that any applications for removals of records should be considered against current legislation", said legislation being, after all, illegal only in a very attenuated, Brussels-oriented, non-Daily Mail sort of fashion.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Criminal Credibility

LUNARIAN: Ah, the executive power is a part of the legislative. Do your policemen also have to approve the local ordinances that they enforce?
TERRESTRIAN: Not yet - at least not in their character of constables. Generally speaking, though, all laws require the approval of those whom they are intended to restrain.
LUNARIAN: I see. The death warrant is not valid until signed by the murderer.
TERRESTRIAN: My friend, you put it too strongly; we are not so consistent.
Ambrose Bierce, quoting The Lunarian Astonished (Boston, 1803)

The American Secretary of State has hinted that Washington may one day deign to have dealings with the International Criminal Court, something the Bush gang refused to deign because of "fears that US officials could be open to arrest for alleged war crimes. The Pentagon was concerned that US soldiers might end up in court in The Hague", and we all know how deep and sincere was the Bush gang's concern for the well-being of US soldiers. Certainly there was little need to worry about the well-being of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton, Rice or the Chimp-in-Command himself, given that, as a Foreign Office spokesbeing said, "the UK played a leading role in the negotiations and drafting of the Rome statute" which set up the International Criminal Court in such a fashion that, since its inception in the year before Operation Iraqi Liberation, it "has pursued dictators, mainly from Africa". The American Secretary of State has recently criticised African leaders for supporting the Sudanese president, which indicates a possible basis for future happy co-operation; particularly as some senior figures in the Pentagon now view the court as "a useful tool rather than a threat", rather like the United Nations, the United Kingdom, the Democratic Party, etc.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

1945 And All That

Today is the anniversary of the glorious victory at Hiroshima, which was achieved thanks to the sterling efforts of the Truman administration in the United States, a leading ally of Britain in the war against Fascism. The Japanese government had been trying to surrender since the destruction of Tokyo in May 1945, so the Truman administration was forced to stall until the bomb was ready. This was called Allied efforts to end the war quickly and save lives. The Japanese were prepared to surrender provided the Emperor was retained; the Truman administration, intensely concerned about the danger to world peace, refused this arrangement until after the bomb was dropped, whereupon the Truman administration accepted Japan's surrender and allowed the Emperor to be retained; this was called unconditional surrender. The glorious victory killed about seventy thousand people on the day the bomb was dropped, rising to about a hundred and forty thousand by the end of the year, rising yet further as the benign effects of radiation later documented by the noted positive thinker Edward Teller began to make themselves felt. Most of the dead and injured were civilians; this was known as destroying Japan's capacity to make war. The glorious victory also served as a warning to the USSR, which since the glorious victory over Germany had cunningly metamorphosed from a brave and tenacious ally into a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy against world peace, democracy and the United Fruit Company. Hence the glorious victory at Hiroshima was a Good Thing, as it led to the nuclear arms race, the Cold War, and the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, which kept the peace in Europe for forty years, despite inexplicably losing its miraculous effectiveness when applied to the Middle East in the twenty-first century.

The immediate effects of the glorious victory at Hiroshima were so devastating that the Japanese government did not at first realise what had happened, and failed to respond with sufficient alacrity to the Truman administration's next demand for unconditional surrender, leading to the glorious victory at Nagasaki on 9 August.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Pouring Our Resources Into Europe

Latvia, which most Britons probably think is a make of Italian car, has complained about the showers of British tourists who have drifted into the habit of watering the Monument of Freedom in Riga. "After one or two people were arrested, it became the thing to do: go to Riga, pee against the monument, take a photo and put it on the internet," said an American tour operator, who also professed disbelief that Latvian culture was a major interest of those involved. "They are drunk by the time they get off the plane," he said, although he did estimate charitably that they sobered up again after going back home. Nevertheless, "one in seven British men have had sex in a public place on holiday" according to research by the Foreign Office, although a discreet veil has been drawn over the details of how and by whom the research was conducted.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Everything's All Right, Yes Everything's Fine

Now that the world has been properly saved, and the banks have so far mended their ways that the more successful among them are beginning to repay their debt to the taxpayer, the political editor of Britain's leading liberal newspaper can turn his attention to more significant matters, such as what the Glorious Successor will be doing on his holidays. Spokesbeings at Downing Street were initially "coy" and "reluctant to respond", and "for more than 24 hours they refused to be drawn"; but evidently the great traditions of investigative journalism are not dead, for at the last they were persuaded. Gordon, it appears, will be filling the void of his copious spare time by doing a bit of community work. Nevertheless, the political editor of Britain's leading liberal newspaper was warned that the Glorious Successor "was not keen to have any publicity for what he was going to do" lest uncharitable souls should grieve him by misreading it as a publicity stunt. The spokesbeings "instead insisted he ... wanted even as prime minister to stay close to his constituents", rather than working from home like someone in charge of a country during a crisis, or even indulging in family values as a lesser man might. Doubtless Gordon is mindful of the possible unpleasantness in a Prime Minister losing his own seat during a general election. Besides, as we all know, the expenses scandal has brought home to Gordon just how precious is the link between MP and constituents when making arguments against proportional representation. Gordon also has "a genuine commitment to community work", probably because it is often done by volunteers, enemies of Britishness or other unwaged human resources.

It is not clear what work Gordon will be doing when he buries himself and his bodyguards in the humble joy of work freely given; but with so much unemployment, poverty and deprivation around I am sure his customers will be happy to see him. It has been made clear to the political editor of Britain's leading liberal newspaper that what Gordon will not be doing is penance, so regrettably there will be no orange Community Payback jacket.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Woolas Walks Again

Presumably because he heard that Joanna Lumley was visiting Nepal, the delightful Phil Woolas has at last unstuck himself from the sole of her shoe and announced a new, tougher regime for people who apply for a British passport. Gosh. Another one. The new regime will penalise those who fail to integrate into New New Labour's idea of "the British way of life" or who show "an active disregard for UK values". Such active disregard could include protesting against British wars (or demonstrating against British troops, which is obviously the same thing) or showing undue concern for one's own rights in circumstances where the Government finds it expedient to revoke them. On the other hand, immigrants who take on jobs that are too cheap, dirty or distasteful for those who were born to their Britishness could find themselves privileged: "migrants who contribute to the 'democratic life of the country' by canvassing for political parties could find the application process speeded up so that it takes one year instead of three".

On a far more refined note, Giovanni Tiso is as thoughtful and interesting as ever with a post on the horrific trade in transplanted book spines which leads seamlessly into an appreciation of Too Loud a Solitude by the Czech novelist Bohumil Hrabal. There's also a link to my Satanic Supplement, complete with the shortest review I've had so far, and the only one to sound like Carlos Fuentes as filmed by Samuel Z Arkoff and Roger Corman. Don't waste it.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Gross National Product

Three years ago the army discovered that two-thirds of British teenagers were too fat to meet its fitness requirements; and, with all the alacrity of a New New Labour education minister lowering the standards for a GCSE grade A+++ in Human Resource Management, relaxed its rules to allow overweight children to enlist. There would be nothing wrong with this if the army had also thought to enforce a policy of changing the obese recruits into non-obese ones; but it appears that the army has more important things to do than ensure its troops are healthy, let alone fit. As a result, the "operational effectiveness" of the country best placed to ride out the economic downturn is being undermined because so many of its soldiers are "unable to cope with the brutal conditions" of the poverty-stricken countries which they have been sent to democratise. At least one of our glorious fallen in Iraq, who was "at the higher level of obese", died from heatstroke. The great British tradition of sportsmanship in war, from Balaklava to Spion Kop and from Passchendaele to Market Garden, has long been a rich source of rhetoric at home and hilarity abroad; but recruiting soldiers too fat to pose a threat to the enemy, even if they don't simply topple over on arrival at the field of glory, seems to be taking chivalry a bit too far.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Parasitic Pensioners Rob Loony Councils On Your Tax Money

Last year, the Government introduced the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, which allows people over sixty and the disabled to travel free by bus all over the country. The Government said that the scheme was "fully funded" and that local councils would not lose out; so naturally, local councils are losing out, because they have to pay for any journey which starts in their area. Preston, which has "allegedly" the second biggest bus station in western Europe (Britain's leading liberal newspaper apparently couldn't be bothered to check), is paying over a million pounds a year to fund trips by people who, while actually in Preston, do nothing more than get on and off buses. Chesterfield has had to lay off forty-five people, and its chief executive claims the council spends more on concessionary travel than on any other public service. "I've had letters from individual senior citizens and pensioners' groups who are really very concerned 45 jobs are being lost because of it," he said. "I tell them, it's a good scheme in terms of social inclusion and the green agenda. It's right you should have it. And they say: 'We could pay half fare, if you're able to save the jobs.' It's quite sad. But it doesn't work like that", because it's a New New Labour scheme; and anything that is right about a New New Labour scheme must inevitably be balanced by an equivalent quantity of wrong, with perhaps a little extra for luck. The Government is now "in consultation" on the matter until some time next year, whereupon the Daveybloke administration will no doubt quietly abolish the whole misguided business and return the non-profitable human resources to the bosoms, budgets and attics of their families, where they truly belong.