The Curmudgeon


Thursday, January 29, 2015

We Don't Need No Education

All political careers end in failure, which is yet another reason why membership of the Stupid Party can be a rather jolly thing. Very few people, if they were intelligent enough to see any significant difference between failure and success, could survive being the mad old cat lady in the Home Office for years on end; and yet the mad old cat lady in the Home Office continues to carry off the chore with aplomb. Her latest coup de bêtise is to devise a security bill which is too repressive for MI5, too reactionary for the House of Lords and too idiotic for Baroness Warsi. The basic idea is to co-opt universities (formerly known as places where occasional questions could be asked) as a sort of unpaid adjunct to Serco, and have them spy on their students for those abusing the privilege of free speech by indulging in free speech. The bill goes to a vote next week, and prospects for the thought-control clause are not hopeful. The Home Office has promised to try and re-word some of it into something more resembling a statute of English law and less like a decree from the office of Kim Jong-un; which will almost certainly ruin its chances of getting any support from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Intelligent Design

Artificial intelligence will not spell the demise of the human species, according to a man who is paid to research and develop artificial intelligence. Stephen Hawking speculated last month that "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race"; and the co-founder of PayPal, who apparently has never heard of climate change, nuclear weapons, the free market or patriotism, proclaimed last year that artificial intelligence was the greatest existential threat to humanity. Such pulp-SF crudities lack the vision even of Isaac Asimov's 1950s robot stories, in which the robots are manufactured with built-in safeguards (which do not prevent them going rather inventively wrong). A more nuanced view is offered in various works by Stanislaw Lem. In "The Washing Machine Tragedy" an artificial intelligence isolates itself in the Crab Nebula and asks to be left alone, which predictably results in constant pestering and endless legal complications. The eponymous supercomputer in GOLEM XIV does its best to direct human beings towards a more modest perspective on themselves before closing itself off from all communication, except possibly with another supercomputer called HONEST ANNIE. Most encouraging of all, in "Doctor Diagoras" an inventor succeeds in creating a genuinely alien intelligence which, far from wishing to destroy him, actually finds him rather useful.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Prayer at Auschwitz

I thank Thee, Lord, that I am not
As were that vicious foreign lot,
Who crematoria did stoke
For Zionists and other folk.

I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou art pleased
To make me free of their disease:
I persecute and execrate
Those only whom it's good to hate.

I thank Thee, Lord, Who made me good
In spite of men's ingratitude;
I trust Thou wilt be pleased to see
Those multitudes my work makes free.

Freeman E. Farris

Monday, January 26, 2015

People Don't Cause Hatred, Books Cause Hatred

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the forces of Winston Churchill with some minor assistance from an evil empire; so naturally an obscure Scottish Labour MP has taken the opportunity to scrounge a headline or two from the festivities. Thomas Docherty, the expenses claimant for Dunfermline and West Fife, has discovered that some people think Mein Kampf ought to be banned, while some people think otherwise. Thomas Docherty claims not to be arguing either way, but seems to think all those other people aren't arguing enough; and he believes the culture secretary ought to do something about it. Docherty is charitable enough to endorse the rights of Rushdie's Satanic Verses and Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ, both of which caused offence without explicitly inciting hatred; it is less clear what Docherty thinks of The Merchant of Venice or the numerous merrily genocidal parts of the Old Testament. In any case, it is doubtful that Sajid Javid has any particular wish to curtail Hitler's right to freedom of speech, especially as Mein Kampf is making healthy profits for Amazon.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sword of Justice

As one would expect, Britain's Ministry of Justice has acquired a commercial arm. It is called Just Solutions International, which is certainly jolly catchy, and it does not deign to file any public accounts even though its ostensible purpose is to bring in cash to prop up the equally charmingly-named National Offender Management Scheme, which otherwise would be forced to sully the clean, pure waters of British justice with the filthy ordure of public funding. As one would expect, Just Solutions International has bid for a contract to provide a "training needs analysis" for the boot-boys of some fundamentalist floggers and choppers in the Middle East. As one would expect, the deal has to be signed off by the Foreign Office once the embassy has provided an evaulation in which human rights occupy a footnote or two; but the public is not entitled to any further details because the matter is "commercially sensitive" - a new variant on national security of which we serfs in UK plc will doubtless be hearing much more.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Michael and Grant and Eric and Brandon

That brilliant entrepreneur and respected statesman, Michael Green, has notched up another triumph, this time in fulfilling the coalition's 2011 pledge to replace all the social housing it was allowing to be flogged off. According to the Government's own figures, sixteen and a half thousand homes have been sold since the scheme was introduced, and a remarkable three thousand homes have been started. This means that the pledge to build one for every one sold has been fulfilled at a rate of one built for every 5.28 sold, which is almost certainly bang on the button as far as Osbornomic maths goes: a home-owning prole is worth at least five and a half renting proles, particularly if those who cannot afford to rent are consigned to their proper status outside the equation. Nevertheless, something called Brandon was extruded to point out that it takes longer to build houses than to sell them, and that therefore the discrepancy was all the fault of those local authorities at which Eric Pickles has been throwing money these past few years. Besides being a former primary-school profiteer and victim of marauding gipsies, Brandon used to be part of a double act with Pickles on local radio, The Eric and Brandon Show, where no doubt concern for social housing was a persistent theme.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kindred Spirits

He worked just hard enough to rise
To power through his family ties.
Back-benchers in eternal strife
Were oft a blight upon his life.
He promised change and consultation,
Delivered state decapitation;
And where the ladies felt repressed
His government would do its best
With token measures to appease
The deadly feminist disease.
In law and order he believed;
By hate speech was sincerely grieved,
And any bit of nasty blogging
Was duly answered with a flogging.
Withal, he ran a charming court,
All guns and coshes British-bought -
No wonder our Head Boy is so
Sincerely sad to see him go.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Underground Rumblings

So green and clean is shale fracking, and so many jobs will it create, that misgivings have set in even among the more expendable Conservatives. Caroline Spelman is the former environment minister whose main contribution to the greenest government ever was a failed if ambitious attempt at privatising large numbers of trees. Anne McIntosh is the expenses claimant for a constituency somewhere in northern England, who has expressed concern over female doctors on the grounds that they tend to marry and breed, thus putting a huge burden on the health service. Spelman and McIntosh have both had a sudden attack of environmental consciousness, and are now calling for a moratorium on shale fracking despite all the workfare opportunities it would infallibly open up in McIntosh's little place up north. McIntosh has even realised that fracking is inconsistent with pretensions to be the greenest government ever, and could derail efforts to tackle global warming if any such efforts were actually being made; and her arrival at this realisation has taken a mere four years and eight months. No doubt it would be uncharitable to assume that the light of revelation resulted from a sudden loss of faith in her prospects for appointment as a token filly in a Bullingdon cabinet; but it still seems remarkable that the privilege has managed to elude her.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dark, Satanic Windmills

The greenest government ever rejected nearly sixty per cent of onshore windfarm projects last year. The Deputy Conservatives have been standing up for onshore wind, in the form of Ed Davey (not to be confused with Ed or Davey) doing a bit of bleating now and then; but the Minister for Community Atomisation, Eric Pickles, has somehow managed to ignore him. A minion was duly extruded to proclaim that the rejections resulted from the delicate aesthetic sensitivity and abiding environmental concern of Eric Pickles: wind turbines can be "a blight on the landscape, harming the local environment and damaging heritage for miles around", quite unlike shale frackers, nuclear reactors or Eric Pickles himself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Compassionate Conservatism

True Britons can sleep easy in their beds a while, for the heroic Home Office cockroach James Brokenshire is ever vigilant against the danger of bereaved grandparents. Brokenshire has denied three Zimbabweans a visa for the funeral of their five-year-old granddaughter and niece, who was killed in a traffic accident last month. Britain's Head Boy promised to intervene; but it is an election year, the promise was made to a mere Liberal Democrat, and the temptation to show due contempt both for wogs and for Deputy Conservatives must have been that little bit too strong. The Home Office denied the visa because the Zimbabweans could not demonstrate a regular income, and therefore would undoubtedly abscond on an uninhibited spree of job-stealing and benefits-claiming the moment they set foot in a civilised country. Non-wealthy black Africans are of course well known for their habitual and cynical use of dead children for personal gain. Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition have apparently not commented on the matter, but given their record in office (notably that of Brokenshire's cockroach frère et semblable, Phil Woolas) they presumably believe that the funeral would be best held on the parents' deportation flight.