The Curmudgeon


Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Happy New Year

As the Old Year was dragging itself out, it met the New Year strolling in amid glad tidings of its predecessor's demise. From a hopeful beginning a twelvemonth before, the Old Year's reputation had plummeted so far that the best most people had to say of it was that it was no longer in front of them.

"My dear fellow," said the New Year, "I trust you are looking forward to your retirement."

"Alas," said the Old Year, "I have done my time and served my purpose, and all I have to show for it is indigestion from all the horrors that have gone on in me, and the knowledge that I am no better than my predecessors."

"I, on the other hand," said the New Year, wiping the sands of time on the doormat, "come in laden with honours and stuffed with resolutions to make myself as happy and prosperous as the vagaries of chance, the weaknesses of human nature and the prompting of expediency permit me to be."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Keep Smiling Through

Some of the Glorious Successor's subtler enemies have persuaded him that "defiant optimism" will gain him ten more years in Downing Street, apparently on the principle that if the rabbit grins widely enough into the onrushing headlights the car will stop and give it a lift. Accordingly, the Glorious Successor is all set to promise us "a decade of shared prosperity", in which protection for entrepreneurs like Serco and Rupert Murdoch will be combined with enhancement of frontline public services for people who can pay for them. Thanks to our being so superbly placed to ride out the recession that every other developed country has ridden it out before us, the recovery is still so fragile that it can be wrecked by kicking the Glorious Successor out of Downing Street and allowing Daveybloke to pursue exactly the same policies with a slightly different rhetorical coating. Choice is a wonderful thing. The Glorious Successor has also been advised to make some sort of show at concern for "those who were hit hardest by the recession, the people on middle and modest incomes who don't want any special favours", as opposed to those on low incomes who have the cheek to claim benefits. The Glorious Successor also seems to have developed a peculiar obsession with the idea that the middle of a recession is a wonderful time to start up a small business: "If we continue with the tough decisions we have made" and which got us into this mess in the first place, "unemployment will start to drop this year and more small businesses will open and flourish", because "Britain's dynamic entrepreneurs ... have defied the recession to start up nearly half a million new businesses". Assuming the majority haven't already gone bust (and no doubt the Glorious Successor would inform us if this were so), by the time the recovery sets in our economy will have overtaken China's. The good news is that the Glorious Successor has finally decided what Britishness means: "We are a nation that combines responsibility with fairness, compassion with aspiration - always reaching higher, dreaming bigger, aiming for ever greater things".

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Your Foetus Is Learning Too Slowly

After twelve years of target-fiddling, tabloid pacification and finger-wagging, New New Labour has discovered that boys tend to develop literacy skills more slowly than girls; though fortunately this is not an insurmountable handicap in gaining Government employment. "What we can see is that boys, particularly on emotional development, lag behind girls," blathered Dawn Primarolo, the Minister for Tiny Consumers. "That emotional development is very important in language development through play before they start school and reading and writing." Since New New Labour has been reforming the education system for the aforementioned twelve years, this emotional immaturity in our XY-chromosomally oriented infant human resources is clearly the fault of nursery staff and child minders, who have not been doing enough to force the little brats to put pen to paper. Accordingly, nursery staff and child minders are now to be ordered to "set up role-play activities tailored to boys' interests, such as builders taking phone messages and writing up orders, post office employees writing on forms, and waiters taking orders from customers". It is not clear where Dawn Primarolo or her handlers got the idea that boys of three and under dream of taking messages, writing forms and serving in restaurants, but given Primarolo's grasp of male psychology I suppose we must take her word for it; although, since the post office is being "reformed" and too many builders would push house prices down, it does seem a bit cruel to raise the little ones' hopes. Oh well, there's always waitering. Meanwhile, government targets for emotional development and employability in the womb are doubtless even now taking eloquent, coherent, calligraphically unimpeachable shape on the back of somebody's envelope.

Monday, December 28, 2009

All the Same, Yet Not All the Same

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has eructated a pre-emptive new year's message claiming that the differences between his party and the Liberal Democrats are "a lot less than in the past". The Liberal Democrats are in favour of parliamentary reform and proportional representation, while Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives are in favour of first-past-the-post and safeguarding the trough for the right sort of people; but aside from that, in the unlikely event of a hung parliament Daveybloke feels they can work together. "Whether you're Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, you're motivated by pretty much the same progressive aims," Daveybloke conciliated, although apparently this does not mean that the differences between his party and New New Labour are a lot less than in the past; oh! perish the thought. Daveybloke, for example, simply cannot stand "politicians who think they have the answer to everything and just can't bear to leave people alone to get on with their lives"; hence his enthusiasm for macho policing and the biometric state. Daveybloke's progressive aims include "a country that is safer, fairer, greener and where opportunity is more equal", but it is far from clear as yet how far he intends to reverse New New Labour's policies of terrorist motivation, filthy-richness exacerbation, airport metastasis and coal-fired power stations.

Fortunately, Daveybloke also believes that elections are not just about policy; which is jolly convenient. Daveybloke believes that elections are also a matter of character, attitude and approach and how political leaders actually behave. This is understandable enough in a politician whose major policy decisions so far have been to engage in a bit of Austerity Bloke posturing, to cuddle up with the far right in Europe, and to criticise New New Labour's pitiful economic interventions as insufficiently inclined to leave the meltdown alone to get on with its life; but it might yet be cause for concern among the electorate, even those tempted to vote for the party of Nick "Who?" Clegg.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


A Clapper complained to its Bell:
"My life is pain and dread.
Your rusty inside is a hell;
Your voice destroys my head."

"I sympathise," the Bell replied;
"And yet we have no choice:
You must remain on my inside,
For your head is my voice."

Throby Wicksteed

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Country Matters

After several years of trying, New New Labour and Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives have finally discovered a policy on which they can plausibly be said to differ. "Quite why this is something that would be a priority for a Tory government, instead of the economy or tackling other concerns, is hard to explain to the public," wrote Hilary Benn, the Secretary for Exporting Plastic Bags to China and Putting Bricks in Cisterns, rather than writing about the economy or other concerns. It appears that Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, wishes to repeal the ban on fox-hunting. Daveybloke believes that fox-hunting, like most other forms of sadism as practised by the right sort of people, is not an appropriate area for the law to interfere. Presumably Daveybloke also believes that a cast-iron promise to overturn the ban will re-ingratiate him with some "traditional" Tories who, thanks to the rust on some of his earlier cast-iron promises, are now contemplating defection to UKIP.

Last night, rather than discussing the economy or tackling other concerns, Benn explained to the public why Daveybloke's latest bit of pandering to the inbreeding brigade was a priority for New New Labour. New New Labour believe that the fox-hunting ban is popular with the public and will somehow help to compensate for such minor errors of judgement as Iraq, Afghanistan, titan prisons, faith schools, identity cards, child imprisonment, the expenses scandal and, no doubt, the economy and other concerns. "We are not saying hunting will be the centrepiece of our election campaign," said a senior Labour source, who doubtless approaches reliability as closely as senior Labour sources usually dare to go. "But it is an issue that concerns many people", so drawing a line under it would be an act of criminal irresponsibility. Meanwhile, as the bells and the burps fade from Britain's main religious festival and the shops start gearing up for Easter, New New Labour and Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives are today temporarily united in palpable relief at having found a real issue to fight over.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday In

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas
Just like the ones we've always known,
Where the trees are drippy
And pavements slippy,
And we fall and break a bone.

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas
While children scream and whine and fight;
My days might be merry and bright
Were the brats but gagged and out of sight.

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas
Just like the sort we always get.
Though recession precludes a bet,
I believe this Christmas will be wet.

Scobbry Nig

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Others Were Oppressed, Yet He Opened Not His Mouth

As the canonisation of Pope Pacelli proceeds apace, in tribute to his having ever so discreetly opposed the persecution of Jews and Communists, the Archbishop of York has been doing his bit to distinguish the Anglican Civil War from Benedict's bigot-rustlers by sort of speaking out more or less against Uganda's persecution of homosexuals. Dr Sentamu is "not happy" with the language of David Bahati's bill because it "seems not only victimising but also a diminishment of the individuals concerned", rather like claiming that people who disagree with you are ipso facto greedy, selfish and lacking in a moral centre. Dr Sentamu said that the Anglican Civil War is committing to recognising that gay people are valued by God, even if they are not valued quite so much by the "traditional" wing of the Anglican Civil War. Dr Sentamu also noted that "at the moment the law in Uganda, without this bill, does exactly the same thing"; the reason why Dr Sentamu and the Archbishop of Canterbury have said and done nothing in public so far is because they are "trying to help" - ever so discreetly.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Traditional Values

Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives have been accused, by no less a paragon than New New Labour, of going against the spirit of electoral law by accepting two fairly small donations from a company controlled by one Fouad Makhzoumi. Makhzoumi is a former arms dealer from Lebanon, once described as a "good and trusted contact" by Jonathan Aitken, before Aitken went to prison on charges of being caught lying while a member of a government preceding that of Tony Blair. A spokesbeing for Daveybloke's Cuddly Guardians of Sovereignty Against the Euro-Menace said that the donations were perfectly fair and above board because there is nothing wrong in a future British government being sponsored by foreign plutocrats provided the said plutocrats are doing some of their profiteering through companies registered in the United Kingdom. New New Labour accused Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives of "returning to the era of sleaze", although unfortunately they were not entirely clear as to when either party is supposed to have left it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Most of All, Beware This Boy

Since the Christmas lights in Oxford Street this year are an advertisement for the Disney film A Christmas Carol, Britain's leading liberal newspaper has an informative little puff piece noting the most important aspect of Dickens' original story; namely the financial rewards thereof. Owing largely to the extravagant outlay involved in publishing the book in a special gift edition with gold-stamped binding, gilded page edges and hand-coloured illustrations, Dickens made very little money from A Christmas Carol, even though it became a best-seller and was in the theatres by the following February - a timetable even the modern 500-page draft screenplay (or "popular fiction blockbuster" as it is generally known) would be hard put to keep. The literary correspondent of Britain's leading liberal newspaper ends by referring to Dickens' book with the teeth-grating phrase "instantly classic"; for which I trust that the ghosts of Literature Past, Book-trade Present and intertxt.fut will exact due retribution.

Although I have very little acquaintance with Dickens, even through feature films or the BBC, I did read A Christmas Carol as a child, in the family's fancy book-club edition. It contained one of the most frightening pictures I had ever seen; rather fittingly, I did not know what Ignorance meant, and I remember that I interpreted Want not as the Victorian noun meaning hardship but as the modern verb meaning wish or desire. I knew that it was bad manners to say "I want", and I assumed that the moral of this episode was something along similar lines. (I also used to have a children's edition of the Arabian Nights whose characters were always giving and receiving purses of sequins, which I took to be black leather purses with metal catches, full of tiny glittering bits.)

Somewhat later, I wrote a sequel to A Christmas Carol, which can be found in four fits under Stories on the sidebar. It didn't make me any money, either.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Not Without Honour, Save In His Own Country

The ascended incarnation of the Vicar of Downing Street has struck back at those feral beasts, the British mainstream media, which did so much to keep him from trotting into Iraq at George W Bush's heels. "Reading the papers in Britain, you'd end up thinking I'd lost three elections rather than won them," Tony told the Sunday Murdoch, as though anybody doubted that winning against the likes of William Hague, Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith were within his capabilities.

"If I did what these people who criticise me here wanted," Tony whined, "I'd end up just sitting in a corner." This is a misconception. Neither I nor anyone else who tries to salvage a measure of self-respect by criticising the Vicar of Downing Street in any of his luminous manifestations wants him just to be sitting in a corner, unless he plans to commit seppuku there. Some of us, for example, would like to see him on trial at the Hague, or even in Baghdad. Some of us merely wish him in Hell. Some of us, including myself, would like to see his assets seized and paid as reparations to the Iraqi people, and the Vicar himself deported to Iraq and put to such work of reconstruction as is commensurate with his age and physical condition.

Tony was also at pains to stress that it is untrue that nobody likes him. Again, this is a rather obvious point. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has accused Tony of not being liked; the problem is that his friends and disciples tend to be such charming anthropological curiosities as Hazel Blears, Lord Mandelbrot the Infinitely Recurring, George W Bush and, indeed, the proprietor of the Sunday Murdoch. Still, once he gets away from the dreadful tax regime which somebody or other has set up in Britain over the last thirteen years, Tony tends to feel his aura slipping back into mellower mode: "There is a completely different atmosphere around me outside the country. People accept the work that you are doing, as it is. They don't see anything wrong with being successful financially and also doing good work". Indeed, as far as Tony is concerned, doing well and doing good have always been more or less synonymous, though a few thousand Middle Easterners whose loved ones are resting in the peace he has helped create might possibly beg to differ.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ozymandias II

I met a sycophant from an antique land
Who mourned: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose grin
And barmy eye with aspect mad yet bland
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on the stone so dumb:
The heart that glowed as bank accounts were fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Tony Blair, I am your chum:
Look on my works, ye people, and be glad!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and sad,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

with apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Toddling Into Oblivion

An American official has described the Copenhagen fiasco as an "important first step" towards further profiteering; so naturally the Glorious Successor has hastened to describe the Copenhagen fiasco as a "vital first step" towards doing more of the nothing and/or worse than nothing which is what passes in the Glorious Successor for an idea of what ought to be done. According to Britain's leading liberal newspaper, "the deal said little on the major sticking points of the last few days - whether or not the US or China and other heavy polluters were serious about curbing their emissions." (Hint: they aren't.) The Glorious Successor did decline to call the result "historical", for which small mercy we must be duly grateful; but since the New New Labour attitude to history is generally to keep it from being taught while apologising for selected bits of it, there is room for debate as to how far the Glorious Successor's unwonted display of modesty resulted from any actual contact with the phenomenal world. "This is the first step we are taking towards a green and low carbon future for the world," Gordon said, flourishing his independence of the White House as well as his historical knowledge by ignoring the very existence of the Kyoto treaty. Still, he has just about registered the fact that "what we really need is a legally binding treaty as quickly as possible", so long as it is legally binding on the right people, and so long as it binds people like the Glorious Successor only without undue commitment to their taking appropriate action in a manner which does not interfere with the right to self-prioritisation of their own interests, their own expendables and their own goals.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kim Howells: A Tribute

Among the many proud and upstanding members of the House of Claimants who will be spending more time with their directorships from next year's election, I really must spare a mention for Kim Howells, the tumescent apparatchik whose bumbling inanity and ethical nonentity have earned him ministerial posts in half a dozen government departments, while Britain's leading liberal newspaper has bestowed upon him the endearing epithet "outspoken". Howells' most recent claim to fame is last month's advice that the Government would do better to spend the resources of the Afghan campaign on spying and imprisoning at home; but he has many other achievements to his credit.

Howells it was who, on the occasion of the Righteous State's 2006 rampage in Lebanon, made a scathing denunciation of its lack of surgicality, which was having results nearly as deplorable as those in Iraq, a country which Howells claimed that same year was "starting to look like the sort of mess that most of us live in". In 2007, Howells proclaimed that using the aid budget to hire mercenaries was down to the Ministry for Lesser Breeds' "duty of care to its staff and to ensure all contracts are subject to rigorous selection so that we obtain full value for money", doubtless in that order. A few months later, Howells had one of his most charming lapses into veracity when he said that a corrupt, authoritarian and torture-friendly regime ought to be able to work with the Saudi government on the basis of "shared values". Finally, early last year the present writer had the honour of receiving a written statement from the master's own hand, setting out the practical and ethical case for doing as little as possible to help Iraqis who were in personal danger as a result of helping British forces.

While I cannot in honesty say that Dr Howells will be sorely missed, it is certain that a non-Labour government by any party other than that of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox would have a very hard time finding a replacement of equal calibre.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Auckland Heresy

Some fun-loving Anglicans in New Zealand have caused grave offence by erecting a billboard depicting a strained-looking Joseph in bed with a tight-lipped, heavenward-looking Mary, with the caption "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow". The intention of the church of St Matthew-in-the-city is to "get people to think more about what Christmas is all about", according to Archdeacon Glynn Cardy. "Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?" In fact, of course, it is mostly about the love and power of money, which may explain why the Catholic church has taken exception to the image. "It's flying in the face of our 2,000-year-old beliefs," said a spokesbeing, apparently under the impression that the Catholic church appeared fully formed, with faggots, indulgences and altar-boys at the ready, in or around the year 9 CE. But the elementary if nuanced distinction between the failed apocalyptic prophet of history and the highly profitable Saviour of faith is doubtless drilled into every Catholic schoolchild nowadays as a matter of course; so it would be dreadfully ill-mannered and New Atheist of me to harp on anything so crude as the difference between fact and fancy. More worrying is the question of precisely where the image's supposed unorthodoxy resides. Is it heretical to imply that Jesus' parents had sexual intercourse after his birth? Were Jesus' siblings also the results of parthenogenesis, or are we to (gasp) assume something the Bible does not tell us, that they were step-brothers and step-sisters from a previous marriage of Joseph's? Is it flying in the face of religious belief to imply that the business of conceiving by the Holy Ghost might cause someone to become a little jaded with those earthly pleasures which the devout hold in such low regard?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Of My Best Jewish Friends Are War Criminals

The British government, which is usually so eager to dipense with fusty legal formalities such as courts, evidence, due process and so forth, has displayed an unwonted conservatism in the case of Tzipi Livni, the Righteous State's former foreign minister. An arrest warrant for Livni was issued by a British court in connection with the fourteen hundred terrorists detrimented during this year's somewhat excessive if indubitably righteous rampage in Gaza, which Britain's leading liberal newspaper refers to, with its customary deadpan humour, as a "war". Livni had been due to attend a conference in London; although her office claimed she had cancelled the engagement, Palestinian sources said they had seen her there and informed the lawyers. The Foreign Office is simply squirming with embarrassment, and the Glorious Successor has been on the telephone having a bit of a grovel in order to avoid the Upper Miliband being inexpediently branded an anti-Semite. The Upper Miliband himself noted that "the procedure by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor is an unusual feature of the system in England and Wales" and gave the world his assurance that, since the said system has caused annoyance to the Righteous State, the Government is "looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again". In future, no doubt, such warrants will require the prior knowledge and consent of somebody impartial and dependable, such as a minister or two.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Panic Button

The rigorous, independent Chilcot inquiry took on an extra specially glowing aura of Britishness today when the eponymous front-man censored the video feed to remove "sensitive information" which was then dismissed as insignificant by onlookers who proceeded to leak it to the press. Chilcot was having a bit of a chat with Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was ambassador in charge of circumventing the United Nations before the invasion and special envoy in charge of cowering in Baghdad's Green Zone afterwards, and does not appear to have derived much satisfaction from either role. The censored information allegedly related to British intelligence reports being less fatuously optimistic than those of the Vice-Chimp in Charge, Paul Bremer, and hence more useful to Colin Powell, then US secretary of state, in compiling his post-invasion PowerPoint presentations. Chilcot decided, if that is the word I want, to cut this horrendous piece of anti-Americanism under protocols agreed with (or, in Standard English, imposed by) Whitehall, whereby information in official documents can only be referred to with the prior agreement of the institution whose conduct is supposedly under investigation. Greenstock also observed that, despite the Vicar of Downing Street's sincere faith in the weapons of mass nonexistence, certain defeatists maintained "Saddam's regime would collapse so fast that we would be left holding a baby without the materials for looking after it." Bizarrely, he went on: "And that indeed is what happened", as though the Iraqi oil ministry had never been pacified or had a dummy inserted into it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bad Men

The Upper Miliband has found yet another good use for taxpayers' money: namely paying a lawyer to repeat once again the Upper Miliband's discredited case against disclosing the contents of a CIA document relating to the enhanced interrogation of Binyam Mohamed. Mohamed was imprisoned in Pakistan and then renditionised to Morocco, Afghanistan and the Guantánomaly, where he claims he was tortured. The high court judges ruled that "the relationship of the United Kingdom government to the United States authorities in connection with Binyam Mohamed was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing", and that the document which the Upper Miliband wishes to keep secret "gives rise to an arguable case of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment". Of course, this is not why the Upper Miliband wishes to keep the document secret. The Upper Miliband is not prey to such base and ignoble motives, for the Upper Miliband is a New New Labour minister, and a fag-end New New Labour minister at that. The Upper Miliband wishes to keep the document secret because its disclosure could result in our oldest and greatest ally refusing to share information with us - a charge to which our oldest and greatest ally made a full and spontaneous confession some months ago. The Upper Miliband's legal hireling, who has the Dickensian name of Jonathan Sumption, said that Britain and the US had a "highly productive intelligence relationship" which it would obviously be a great pity to lay waste over an insignificant matter of kidnapping and torture with razor blades. Sumption even claimed that there were disagreements about certain "interrogation techniques", although he does not seem to have made clear whether the Blair government tried as hard to stop the CIA's water sports and sharp practice in the Guantánomaly as it obviously tried to stop the Pentagon's fun and games in Iraq. Since the high court judges had gone so far as to express scepticism over some Holy Writ spouted by the American government, Sumption also criticised their lack of respect for this greatest taboo of the British Foreign and Colonial Office: "I would go so far as to say their views were irresponsible", he said. He also asserted that, since Mohamed has been released, the legal proceedings are no longer the business of anyone except the Upper Miliband and his chums. After all, once a crime has been committed and is over and done with, why should anyone be so irresponsible as to wonder how it happened or who was to blame? In this case, it appears, the matter has "essentially been taken over to serve a wider, and in some respects, political agenda", which is a jolly rotten thing to do.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Western Values

Staunchly Christian Uganda is about to pass a law to "protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sex promiscuity on the people of Uganda" by adopting a version of Margaret Thatcher's Clause 28 which makes it illegal to "promote" homosexuality and obliges citizens to denounce the objectively disordered to the authorities. There will also be a death penalty for "defilement by an adult who is homosexual"; and, since forty per cent of Uganda's people are Catholic, appropriate provisions have no doubt been made for defilements of the ephebophile variety.

Also in the Thatcherite vein, the Ugandan moralists are bleating about indigenous values being undermined while busily adopting the values of certain Americans. In this case, the Americans include some of the most charming clowns to appear in Uganda since that delightful veteran of our own King's African Rifles, Idi Amin. David Bahati, the anti-gay bill's originator, has been snuggling up to people like Scott Lively, who co-wrote a book called The Pink Swastika "claiming that leading Nazis were gay" (and thence reasoning, presumably, that leading gay people are...) and Don Schmierer, who promotes the idea that people can change their sexuality and be redeemed, much as certain persons with deeply held beliefs can change their church if the circumstances are right.

Nevertheless, Bahati's bill goes a bit far for the comfort of some, even in the American evangelical business. Rick Warren, founder of the fortuitously-named Saddleback Church, has said that the bill is "unjust, extreme and un-Christian towards homosexuals", as though there were something somehow un-Christian about injustice and extremism. Even the co-author of The Pink Swastika has called the bill "unacceptably harsh", even if it does have the potential to be "an encouraging step in the right direction". With an insight into the minds of modern Ugandans which verges on the journalistic, Lively noted that "modern Ugandans are very unhappy that homosexual political activists from Europe and the US are working aggressively to rehomosexualise their nation"; raising the intriguing question of when, and from what perversely pink polity, the nation of Uganda was last dehomosexualised.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has reacted to the issue with his usual combination of forthrightness and moral courage, by stating that the election of a lesbian bishop in the US Episcopal Church raised "serious questions".

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Not Exactly the Spanish Inquisition

The ascended incarnation of the Vicar of Downing Street has pre-empted Chilcot's comfy chair by submitting to the soft cushions of a BBC chat show. Asked whether he would have joined in Operation Iraqi Liberation even had he been aware that the dossiers forged by his minions were inaccurate, his reverence said that he "would still have thought it right to remove" Saddam Hussein; and of course there are very few legal or ethical considerations which can trump Tony's thoughts about what is right.

Britain's leading liberal newspaper unfortunately does not record whether Tony was asked about his statement to the House of Commons on 25 February 2003, wherein he said that "even now, today, we are offering Saddam the prospect of voluntarily disarming through the United Nations. I detest his regime but even now he could save it by complying with the United Nations' demands." Apparently the reason Tony lied about Saddam Hussein's prospects for self-preservation was that Saddam Hussein was a "threat to the region" because Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people. The fact that Saddam Hussein did this dastardly deed as a friend and business partner of, among others, the government of Tony's spiritual godmother and sometime house guest Margaret Thatcher, was also, it appears, charitably passed over. "This was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind. The threat to the region," his reverence continued. "Also the fact of how that region was going to change and how in the end it was going to evolve as a region and whilst he was there, I thought and actually still think, it would have been very difficult to have changed it in the right way", the way it has presumably changed since the invasion and Tony's subsequent kaleidoscope-fluxing, massacre-preventing, ceasefire-enforcing stint as peace envoy.

Tony also spoke of his religious beliefs. At the time of the invasion, as a Roman Catholic believer masquerading as a member of the Anglican communion, he was of course lying about those too; but again the corporation responsible for inflicting Thought for the Day on a bored population seems to have balked at calling him to account. In any case, his reverence denied that he was motivated by a wish to smite the infidels simply for the holy satisfaction of doing so. Instead, his religious faith "gives you strength if you come to a decision, to hold to that decision". It must be awfully jolly, when you have helped to kill a few tens of thousands and caused untold misery to hundreds of thousands more, to have a still, small voice that whispers in the quiet dark, and always tells you that you were right.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Extremists Attack Internet

Religious extremists in the Middle East have condemned the internet in uncompromising terms, claiming that it is leading the faithful astray.

"To our dismay, computers with all sorts of abominations have been found in the unsupervised flats, may God protect us," said a dismayed wall poster condemning internet use by seminary students.

The internet, with its freedom of information and wide variety of opinions, is seen as a major threat in the more extremist spider-holes of the Middle East, as well as in the Murdoch family.

"We consider it to be very dangerous," said one "educator" who serves on a committee to enforce religious observance. "It is something that is liable to cast down a lot of casualties."

Others have condemned the internet as an "epidemic" which "must be stopped", and as an "instrument of impurity" which will result in children being excluded from education.

Fortunately, the religious extremists in question do not follow the extreme sort of religion which would normally blow people up or wipe countries off a map; which may explain the absence of their apoplectic apophthegms from today's front pages in the tabloids.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Drowning Out

Some little brown folks have made a bit of a gaffe at Copenhagen. Tuvalu, formerly part of the British Empire and now just a few expendable islands somewhere in the Pacific, has formally proposed "a new, strengthened and legally binding agreement that would set more ambitious targets than what is presently being proposed" by those nations whose proposals the Guardian's environment correspondent considers worthy of the name. Since Barack Obama was off somewhere saying some things while accepting a prize for saying some things, it was left to China and India to argue against the idea. More than half of the countries in the world say they will not sign up to a deal which allows temperatures to rise more than one and a half degrees; the major economies and Britain would prefer a target of two degrees, presumably because that will make smaller and more politically defensible the margin by which they eventually miss it. A target of one and a half degrees would mean stabilising the amount of carbon in the atmosphere at about three hundred and fifty parts per million; this in turn would mean actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere from present levels, as opposed to merely increasing it slowly enough for future administrations to be blamed for the consequences. The Guardian's environment correspondent is careful to note categorically that "no technology currently exists to feasibly remove CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale", although mere current nonexistence has not prevented the present British government from taking advantage of technologies for the large-scale use of clean coal and sustainable uranium.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cleaning Up

Two Parties were contesting an Election in one of the world's numerous Greatest Democracies in the World. After four years, the quantity of mud thrown by both sides exceeded the nation's entire gross journalistic product. The Two Parties were somewhat bespattered, although not very badly because both of their leaders had been planed, filed, sanded and varnished to an inordinate smoothness, and then basted in honey and pig's grease for extra moral authority. The Election, however, was so covered in ordure that it could barely be distinguished from the normal run of day-to-day political discourse.

"Alas!" cried the Election. "Once I was fair and free, the stimulant of vigorous debate and the envy of the foreign and proportionally-represented. Now I am an object of near-universal antipathy and revulsion, and voters bar their windows against my approaching fragrance."

"This is exactly what we have been saying for years," chorused the Two Parties; "whatever the cost to our opponents, it is time to clean up politics."

So the Two Parties voted through a grant to have the mud scraped off themselves at the taxpayer's expense; whereupon each appeared so beautiful to the other that sufficient bipartisan support was immediately found to pass legislation depriving the electorate of its right to a sense of smell.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I'm Not Against You, But...

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has been trying to cuddle up to single parents; a group towards which the Conservatives are so amiably disposed that Daveybloke's handlers decided not to tell the media about it. The message, it appears, is that while single people, and even single parents, are almost as good as anyone else provided they keep in their place, Daveybloke believes that married people are more deserving; and while Daveybloke is not "at war" with single parents, he does think it right to discriminate against them. Daveybloke's view is that "there is an importance in trying to say that commitment and relationships and marriage are good institutions"; undoubtedly there is a veritable trickle of clear blue water between this and New New Labour's view that the state has a right to interfere in people's private lives and punish those of whom it disapproves, but I fear the distinction may be too subtle for those who have to pay extra for the privilege of raising their children alone. Daveybloke was very clear that "the flip side of this coin isn't disapproval of those who don't stay together. ... Sometimes, however hard you try, a relationship is not going to work"; and just because you are paying more tax on that account, that does not mean that Daveybloke disapproves of you, even if Daveybloke does approve of married people more. Daveybloke gets the real world. "I get the real world," Daveybloke said, and that pretty much settles that.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Data Protection Justified At Last

Despite the hundredth significant death in Afghanistan this year, the Ministry for War and the Colonies continues to stand firm with the Bush-Blair policy which has gained us so many great successes in the region. Hilariously, the Ministry has cited "data protection rights" as its excuse for refusing to hand over to Reprieve information necessary for the legal representation of two Bad Men who were captured in 2004 and have been held in Afghanistan without trial or charge ever since. John Hutton, the empty suit in charge of the Ministry at the time, claimed that both Bad Men were members of a Sunni militant organisation, despite the apparent fact that one of them is a Shi'ite. Hutton also said that the Bad Men had been moved to Afghanistan because of a shortage of US linguists, and that they were being held in the usual "humane conditions that met international standards". Five years ago another empty suit calling itself Jack Straw told the Commons foreign affairs committee that "there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition", unless one was prepared to believe that Condoleezza Rice and an empty suit calling itself Jack Straw might possibly tell a fib or two. It is true that the Bad Men were captured by the British, handed over to the Americans, and then held without charge or trial, all of which might appear to the shallow and backsliding to be symptoms of rendition (or, in Oldspeak, kidnapping and optional torture), and that all this occurred with the knowledge and connivance of British officials; but the Bush-Blair policy is unequivocal. When you are in a hole, keep digging, and if at first you're not believed, lie, lie and lie again.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Common Touch

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has taken exception to some unpleasantries by the Glorious Successor and Lord Mandelbrot the Infinitely Recurring about the public-school background of some of the twits, flits and shits in the shadow cabinet. Daveybloke said that he was "not in the slightest bit embarrassed" about his private schooling: "frankly I think the country is more interested in who are these people, are they any good, have they got the right ideas, will they take the country forward, have they got the energy and vigour and dynamism that we so badly need?" Well, leaving the matter of ideas in charitable abeyance, Daveybloke has about as much vigour and dynamism as is required to work as an office boy for a relative before being made leader of the notoriously meritocratic Conservative Party on the strength of looking a bit less shop-soiled than David Davis or Kenneth Clarke, and also thanks to a certain cast-iron guarantee about which it would perhaps be tactless to go into detail. Besides, there are people in Daveybloke's shadow cabinet who did not have a private education - such towers of probity as William Hague, such men of the people as Eric Pickles, such paragons of barking sanity as Liam Fox. No doubt some of them are good with the coloured folks, too. Certainly the ill-natured gibes from New New Labour must be motivated entirely by envy and resentment; for if Gordon had been blessed with Daveybloke's social connections he might not have had to work so hard to persuade the rich and influential that New New Labour rated their interests so far above the interests of everyone else.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

When Two Strong Men Stand Face to Face

In a bizarre echo of the Bush administration's dealings with the Taliban before the invasion of Afghanistan, the leader of an inept, crooked and torture-happy regime has ordered Pakistan to destroy Osama bin Laden or face the consequences. The prime minister of Pakistan, whose intelligence services have worked so effictively with our own, has responded by asserting that bin Laden is not in the country; and, like the Taliban, he even called on the international community to produce evidence, of all things, for its claims to the contrary.

Meanwhile, one of Gordon's domestic enemies has promised to "facilitate visas" allowing the return of seven students whom the Glorious Successor pronounced guilty of involvement in a major terrorist plot. In the event, the plot was so big that the police released the perpetrators without charge, and it was left to the Ministry of Dawn Raids and Deportations to remove the threat. Besides further enhancing the Glorious Successor's already considerable abjection factor, the return of the students will no doubt enable yet more rational debate on immigration, particularly in the light of Britain's newly-liberalised rules on dealing with unauthorised photographic activities.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Feel the Pain, Wag the Finger

New New Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, and its real leader, Lord Mandelbrot the Infinitely Recurring, have intervened decisively over bankers' bonuses in the usual New New Labour fashion, by wagging their fingers and bemoaning the fact that, despite nothing whatever being done to stop them, some people can be very, very naughty indeed. A spokesbeing for the Royal Bank of Scotland, which has been working so brilliantly that the Government plans to throw more taxpayers' money at it, said that RBS would "always pay on the principle of no rewards for failure". Of course, faced with a government which cannot equip its own soldiers and prefers to rely on charities and churches for the education of the country's children, screwing a few thousands of millions out of the Treasury can hardly count as a failure, and there are rumours that RBS' board of directors has threatened to resign if the Government interposes any more petty regulations between them and their just reward. The banking sector as a whole is palpitating with horror because of fears that Gordon's little Darling's pre-budget dog-whistle will portend the "introduction of politically popular taxes on bank pay", which would have to be endured at least until next spring, when Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives will remove them. Restrictions on bonus payments are already so harsh that Barclays has had to agree to huge increases in basic pay in order to circumvent them. Truly, as the management at Royal Mail would no doubt agree, these are difficult times for everyone.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Meanwhile, On An Unfamiliar Planet...

The peculiar David Davis has been attacking his Head Boy's austerity rhetoric, at least as far as it concerns Daveybloke's policy of trying to appear to care whether a few million more little chaps in Wonga Wonga Land get a bit more sun than they're used to. David Davis pontificates about the Stalinist horrors of the green movement. David Davis believes that the green movement is full of people with an instinct for "statist, regulatory, dirigiste regimes", unlike the Conservative Party, whose regulatory instincts are directed solely at non-contributors. David Davis believes that too many discussions on climate change have degenerated into name-calling. David Davis does not consider it acceptable for those who deny the existence of climate change to be called climate change deniers, because this has "deliberate holocaust connotations" which may offend the Conservatives' new chums in Europe, to say nothing of oil company executives and sustainable-uranium salespersons. David Davis also finds it unacceptable for people who believe their opponents are deliberately falsifying evidence to "essentially call their opponents liars". David Davis favours a middle way. David Davis believes that a miraculous microgeneration technology is just around the corner, but it seems unlikely that David Davis would favour any statist, regulatory, dirigiste regime such as a Government-funded housing drive that would incorporate this technology once it deigned to appear. David Davis believes that we should not destroy our beautiful landscape with nasty, noisy wind turbines. David Davis believes that we should preserve our beautiful landscape with "a major increase in nuclear power", which has proven so clean, so reliable and so profitable to the sort of people David Davis cares about. David Davis also believes we should maximise cloud reflectivity, a process for which the technology is "still some way off", patiently waiting for sufficient extinction to occur for there to be sufficient demand for the free market to light upon it. David Davis believes we should "give more prominence to a policy of adaptation", as befits one of Britain's two or three main parties of Social Darwinism. David Davis believes we should worry that "cutting the world's growth will condemn millions of people to continuing poverty in the decades to come" - after all, we have just had a global economic boom, and the world's poor are substantially better off for the resulting trickledown. David Davis believes that it is proper to worry about the potential effects of global warming, at least on "the poorer parts of the world", such as British Petroleum's deprived shareholders. David Davis also believes that "the planet appears to have been cooling, not warming, in the last decade". Perhaps David Davis believes in a middle way between global warming and global cooling. Perhaps David Davis believes in global staying the same. That would certainly provide no excuses for people with an instinct for statist, regulatory, dirigiste regimes. What a relief.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


While the trial of Tony Blair is still a somewhat tenuous possibility, that of John Demjanjuk has been adjourned on the grounds of ill health. Demjanjuk was born in Ukraine, where Stalin's economic policies resulted in what Tony and Daveybloke would presumably call a period of tough agronomic readjustment. A little later the Nazis invaded; Demjanjuk, as a soldier in the Red Army, was captured and, like Daveybloke's new chums in Latvia's Decent Waffen-SS, defected to the other side. Demjanjuk served as a concentration camp guard, doubtless doing his best under difficult circumstances. After the war he emigrated to the United States, though he does not quite seem to have reached the heights of Tony's own accomplishments on the lecture circuit. Curiously enough, Gordon Brown, despite his sure legal touch where big Islamic plots are concerned, has not pronounced a verdict; Jack Straw, despite his famous humanitarian concern over General Pinochet, has not intervened; and not a single one of Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives has come forth in defence of this unfortunate victim of Soviet aggression. Now, I wonder why that could be.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tony On Leadership

A former foreign policy advisor to the Vicar of Downing Street, who doubtless had all the usual misgivings at the time, has informed the Chilcot nonentity that the poodle was yapping and drooling for full-on military action against Iraq by October 2002. The Bush administration could have destroyed Iraq on its own, said the ex-flunkey; but it regarded Britain's participation as "enormously desirable", presumably in order to provide a handy internationalist fig-leaf for its penetration of the Iraqi oil ministry.
Hence, three days after nearly finishing My Pet Goat, George W Bush fed Tony his conspiracy theory about Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida; Tony said that the evidence for such a link would have to be "very compelling indeed" before it could replace the weapons of mass nonexistence as an excuse for going ahead with democratisation by depleted uranium, but ordered the brilliant Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, to get his toys ready just in case.

Meanwhile, Tony has been favouring CNN with some of his thoughts on the art of leadership. "One of the things you learn as a leader ... is that you have a responsibility to make decisions," Tony profundified; doubtless George W Bush, if he ever watches CNN, was nodding his considered agreement with that one. "Some of those decisions are difficult ... some [are] controversial," Tony continued; certainly nothing for Dick Cheney or the House of Saud to quarrel with there. "I think it was one of your presidents who said: 'If you can't stand the heat, don't come into the kitchen.' And that's my view of politics," Tony concluded. In fact, the phrase runs, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen", and the originator was the well-known peacemaker, Harry S Truman; Tony is, of course, rather good at entering heated situations, sometimes even radioactive situations, and then leaving others to get themselves out. Nevertheless, despite his long-standing attraction to the Lord's Own Child-beating and Paedophilia Club, the Vicar of Downing Street did not bully his very own rock of steadfastness, Peter Goldsmith, into keeping quiet about the illegality of the assault on Iraq. Tony says it, so it must be true.