The Curmudgeon


Thursday, June 30, 2005

A New Hope

Something odd is happening among the Sun readers. Over the last few weeks I have seen several who were women and at least one who was black - rather a strange readership for the sexist, racist Stürmer of Little England.

This evening I saw another one. I was on the Tube this evening - all these sightings take place on the Tube; it's the only place I frequent where I am forced to take excessive notice of my fellow creatures - and it was seated almost directly opposite to me. It had the shaven scalp, the larded figure and the blotches-and-cream complexion that go to make up the finest specimens of English manhood. Its lower lip protruded further than its nose, though not quite as far as its navel. A black beard cut with geometric neatness bristled from the uppermost of its chins. All in all, it seemed virtually an archetypal Sun reader; but there were a couple of strange anomalies.

The first was its forehead. It is of course a myth that Sun readers' foreheads slope back so sharply that their eyebrows look like badly-made toupées. There is nothing remotely scientific in such a view, and it is about time the falsehood was exposed. What makes a genuine Sun reader is not the gradient of the forehead but the contents of the cranium. Still, it is true that few Sun readers have any supra-orbital skull to speak of, for the simple reason that the weight of too much bone above the eye would interfere with their concentration. But the creature sitting opposite me had a huge head; so much so that it seemed to be all the poor thing's chins could do to support it without bursting.

Secondly, the thing was not reading the Sun. It was reading the Daily Telegraph. Perhaps I have led an unduly sheltered existence, but I have always thought of Telegraph readers as rare, exotic beings - abnormally moneyed, clad in silk suits, and resident largely on aircraft moving between tax havens. I have thought of them, in short, as being rather the way members of UKIP imagine themselves in their dreams. But the creature opposite me was wearing a Tory-blue, short-sleeved sweatshirt (which, in the summer temperature and the great olfactory tradition of Sun readers, thoroughly merited its name); and obviously it was not abnormally rich, or even rich at all, since it was travelling on the Tube in the first place.

Even more fascinating: as I was getting off it finished reading, folded up its Telegraph and put on a pair of glasses. They were glasses of the fashionable type with very small rectangular lenses and plain black frames - the kind affected by Blairite journalists to emphasise their ability to look long and hard upon the hard, plain realities. The creature was transforming before my eyes. Where before I had seen a sort of über-Garry Bushell, a sub-David Aaronovitch was emerging like a mendacious monosyllable from a punchy platitude.

What can it all mean? Are Britain's Sun readers somehow mutating, thanks perhaps to climate change or increased radioactivity among the Tory leadership? Have the Telegraph's recent vicissitudes resulted in a readiness to slum - in a more predatory, less scrupulous paper, ready to poach readers even from the rank files of lotto-lovers and gipsy-baiters? Are we now so Americanised that standards are dropping even among our illiterates? Or could it be that evolution is taking place before our eyes, and that within another generation we may see such specimens ennobling themselves yet further; perhaps even unto the giddy moral heights of the Guardian's comments section? We can but wait and hope.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

News 2020

British breakthrough could lift global economy

A British-based company is at the forefront of pioneering efforts to regenerate the world economy by kick-starting the international consumer apathy problem into a new gear.

The company, Texas Organic Produce, has successfully patented the procedure for manufacturing genetically-modified consumers, which many economists consider to be a vital new stage in human evolution.

"It is clearly not only vital but absolutely natural that the human species should adapt itself to suit the new environment of globalised economic forces which now surround it," commented economic expert Nigel Feasting-Piranha today.

His views were opposed by religious groups, who called the new consumers "Frankenstein fools" and claimed their production interfered with the Almighty's eternal plan for the redemption of the human race.

However, many such groups have been won over by TOP's chairman, Mobley Burrows, himself a practicing Christian, who has appeared personally in a series of TV advertisements in the United States, appealing for understanding from his opponents.

In one of the adverts, Mr Burrows caused controversy by claiming that TOP could manufacture genetically-modified adherents for "any religion willing to pay Texas Organic an honest price for an honest day's work".

Several rival companies have threatened to sue TOP on the grounds that the process for manufacturing religious adherents has not yet been patented, and that therefore such products could not be bought "exclusively from the TOP line", as the advertisement claimed.

The first genetically-modified consumers are expected to hit the high streets in a few years' time. TOP is offering discount rates to mothers prepared to carry the modified foetuses, in accordance with Mr Burrows' firm devotion to traditional family values.

The manufacturing procedure is a closely guarded corporate secret, but is believed to involve a modification of the brain centres to shorten the period of so-called "satisfaction" following a purchase.

"The global recession means that self-indulgent abstinence on the part of purchasers is simply not an option," Mr Feasting-Piranha said today.

The Prime Minister said that the whole country would be "proud and happy" that the breakthrough had come in a British laboratory. Although Texas Organic Produce is owned by a US corporation, its laboratories are in Scotland and employ a number of Britons as sanitation operatives.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Childhood Memory

When I was a child, I occasionally read bits of Reader's Digest. I'm not proud of it, but I was young; and at least I had the sense never to go near any of their pigfucking Condensed Books. A couple of articles still stick in my mind. There was one called "The Student Who Designed an A-Bomb", which Osama and company might find instructive. Another, whose title I can't remember, concerned a US military pilot whose canopy suddenly disappeared when he was on a routine flight and who, despite losing one eye to a chunk of debris, managed to land his aircraft with some help from ground control.

The best one, which appeared about 1974 but came my way a few years later, was called "The Man They Couldn't Kill". While the title is not quite correct, the story is eminently uplifting and contains valuable moral lessons for chronic drinkers and insurance salesmen.

I don't remember the city, but it happened in America in 1933, during the Depression. A loose agglomeration of small-time nasties, later to be sensationalised as "The Murder Trust" by the Press, used to hang around a certain speakeasy which was also patronised by a middle-aged, bleary-eyed, alcoholic Irishman called, I believe, Michael Malloy. The nasties had recently carried out a successful insurance job whereby the girlfriend of one of them had been doped to the tonsils with rotgut liquor, then placed on her bed and doused with cold water with the windows wide open in the middle of winter. In the morning she was dead of alcoholism and exposure, and the nasties collected on the policy which one of them had thoughtfully taken out beforehand.

One of them suggested doing the same with Malloy, who drank too much and looked too frail to last very long. They took out a policy, citing him as an uncle or cousin or something of the sort, and started plying him with free drinks. Malloy didn't mind at all, but despite the excessive quantities and the less than stellar quality, he didn't die. They started lacing his whisky with methylated spirits, but he didn't die. Then they tried antifreeze, in ever-increasing amounts. After a while Malloy was knocking back pure antifreeze. He didn't mind at all, and he didn't die.

I can't remember what else they gave him to drink, but none of it was champagne. I do know they tried feeding him sandwiches with spoiled meat, and I am reasonably sure that after a few tries they started garnishing the meat with sharp metal shavings filed off the tin. Malloy appreciated their hospitality - probably toasted it a time or several in double antifreeze - and staggered off into the night, only to return the next day, bleary-eyed but still bushy-tailed and with cast titanium alimentary canal awaiting the next amusing challenge.

His would-be beneficiaries, who had been observing the performance with growing desperation, eventually consulted a more professional gangster who advised them to forget the fancy stuff and simply murder Malloy outright. I think they ran him over with a car, but he bounced and came back for more antifreeze. In the end they had to stick a gas pipe in his mouth and suffocate him, which is too bad; but this, via a suspicious coroner and one or two indiscretions, eventually led most of them to the electric chair.

That's the kind of story that helps me face the day. I just thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Attractive,adj. Having sufficient money, charm and good looks to be considered "caring with a sense of humour".

Cavil,v.i. To raise objections of a nature merely ethical.

Fudge,n. Staple diet of political journalism; hence the preponderance in that profession of belly-achers with no teeth.

Inhumanity,n. That which distinguishes us from the animals.

Head,n. Organ with which we deceive others.

Heart,n. Organ with which we allow others to deceive us.

Memory,n. That part of the mind set aside for the storage of grudges.

Quail,v.i. To tremble, after the fashion of a bird sent by Jehovah among the Israelites in the desert to be slaughtered for its meat. Who wouldn't?

Shock,n. A species of surprise, frequently occasioned by electricity or bodily injury, and sometimes professed as a reaction to the sins of others.
While driving at night, Mrs Bender
Once put a large dent in her fender;
For she saw a huge toad,
Standing right in the road,
In stockings and black silk suspender.
Rev. Wibley Beamish

Unelected,adj. A politician who has yet to break a promise.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

News 2020

Mission Accomplishable

The US Commander-in-Chief has requested Americans to "continue in their faith" that the Allies' mission to democratise and civilise the Middle East retains accomplishability.

Speaking from the Oval Bunker, the Commander-in-Chief yesterday gave a television address in which he said, "The light of the sabre of liberty is visible at the end of the tunnel of insurgentification, if only we can grasp the nettle of conflict with the eyes of faith."

His speech comes as the spiral of violence in the Middle East continues to sink into the quagmire of a vicious circle. Half a dozen female Marines were killed on Monday in an attack by a suicide bomber in "retaliation" for the US-led Operation Laughing Pesticide two weeks ago.

Experts believe that the recent wave of female casualties may show that a new and sinister strain of misogyny is entering the Islamist terrorists' conception of their holy war.

"A society that is capable of making its women cover their faces in public is capable of anything," said Russell Grabby of the England, My England party. "In civilised countries we arrest people who hide behind hoods."

The Commander-in-Chief said that the Allies would take all possible accomplishability enhancement measures with regard to freedom.

The British Government welcomed the Commander-in-Chief's speech. The Foreign Secretary said it was "brilliant," and the Minister of Peace "statesmanlike".

The Prime Minister displayed his usual talent for uniting disparate voices within his Cabinet by calling the Commander-in-Chief's speech "brilliant and statesmanlike" later in the afternoon.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

News 2020

Honorary doctorate for controversial TV presenter

Oxbridge BMW University is standing by its controversial decision to award an honorary doctorate to Jiminy Claxon, the controversial presenter of the BBC's controversial Road Rage programme.

Mr Claxon, who also writes columns for the Sun and Rupert on Sunday, is known for his controversial views on many topics, including cyclists, health and safety experts and hills.

His controversial description of ramblers as "urban Islamofascists" last year prompted a public outcry. The Government responded promptly, by drafting new legislation to ban all conurbation-oriented human resources from unauthorised rustication.

However, the law has not yet come into effect, and the Opposition has criticised the Government and Mr Claxon for failing to cause sufficient panic on the issue.

"There are far too few so-called ramblers who are insufficiently inclined to stay at home, lock their doors and give thanks to the shade of Winston Churchill," the NuLibCon Alliance leader, Boris Johnson, said.

Mr Claxon has also been criticised for saying that man-made global warming is a good thing when, according to the Government-sponsored Society for Ecological and Environmental Positivity, man-made global warming is a myth put about by would-be extremist disruptors of the Happy Children Free Trade Agreements.

Nevertheless, Oxbridge BMW said today that Mr Claxon's honorary doctorate would be awarded, "no matter how noisy or humourless the opposition", in recognition of his support of British technology and his contribution to learning and society.

A BBC spokesperson said of Mr Claxon, "He has something to say about almost everything. Humour and lively debate are the hallmarks of Road Rage."

Thursday, June 23, 2005


A scholar who had heard Jesus' commandment to love his neighbour as himself, and who lived in a crowded tenement, feared lest his love might be spread too thinly to do any noticeable good. He therefore approached Jesus one day and asked, "Rabbi, who is my neighbour?"

Jesus said, "A man was travelling on foot from Jerusalem to Jericho, trusting in God to protect him on the dangerous roads. On a particularly trustworthy stretch of public highway, he was set upon by thieves who beat him senseless and took everything he had, including his clothes.

"After some little time, a Levite approached and saw the man's unconscious form; and, bethinking himself of the peril he was in, hurried on his way. Later a Pharisee came along and, crossing to the other side of the road lest any groans disturb his virtuous meditations, fled from the spot as fast as he could go.

"Then a Samaritan came along and saw the man. The Samaritan gave the man water, bound up his wounds, wrapped him in his best blankets and set him on his own camel. He took the victim to an inn and paid the proprietor generously to look after him, promising more should the man be well again when the Samaritan returned that way in a few days' time. Now," said Jesus, "in the eyes of God, who was the best neighbour to that man?"

The scholar shifted feet and averted his gaze, and fiddled with his robe; but he could not escape Jesus' meaning. "The Samaritan, I suppose," he mumbled at last.

"Far from it," said Jesus. "In the eyes of God, the man's best neighbours were the men who robbed him. They relieved him of the spiritual burden of his worldly goods, and they failed to deposit him in the Lord's paradisiac bosom only through excusable haste."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Amicable,adj. The kind of divorce settlement which does not come out of the muzzle of a gun.

Deterrent,n.(Military) Judicious provocation.

Emotion,n. The mask of instinct, the goad of madness and the excuse of stupidity.

Home,n. Where the heart is.
"You are like my home," he grunted
To his smiling lady-love;
She was cheap and falsely fronted
And fell backwards at a shove.
Urpinella Modge

Insurance,n. Eminently sensible custom of preparing for one's own demise by making it profitable to others.

Mule,n. Stupidly obstinate animal with a nag for a mother and an ass for a father; hence a close relation of yours in more than mere temperament.

Providence,n. That to whose tender mercies the Christian poor are normally left, in accordance with the Saviour's commandment that the poor should be with us always. This laudable laisser-faire does not extend to doubters, since Providence, being wholly benevolent, is powerless to punish them as they deserve, and thus stands in need of human assistance.
The power of Faith, it is said,
Can sometimes bring life to the dead;
And the ages have shown
That it is not unknown
For the converse to happen instead.
Rev. Wibley Beamish

Telephone,n. Labour-saving device enabling interruption at a distance.

Void,adj. Any agreement which is inconvenient to the stronger signatory.

Whockeroon,n. A sudden and unforeseen Antipodean catastrophe.
Barely had they landed at Melbourne than the Murdoch whockeroon descended on them.
Floomery Gorple

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Living our Lukewarmness

The Guardian's attitude to climate change has undergone an encouraging evolution. There was a time when heatwaves that killed people in their thousands were good for little more than a few hundred words of plodding whimsy about Anglo-Saxon attitudes to the weather. "Judging by the comatose and in some quarters almost hostile reaction to the heatwave," we were told, "Britain has a long way to go before centuries of phlegm and caution are discarded for the fervour and excitement of permanently warmer climes." So your granny's collapsed from heat exhaustion? Well, mustn't grumble - get your manly fervour out onto that cricket pitch!

A few months later, it seemed as if the bad news had penetrated even Alan Rusbridger's air-conditioned office. A report by a respectable international team of scientists predicted extinction for a quarter of terrestrial species, plant and animal alike, by the year 2050. The solution was clear: "if every driver took one fewer car journey a week averaging nine miles, it would cut carbon dioxide emissions from traffic by 13%." Other recommended "minimum efforts" for the cautious and phlegmatic included "having a shower rather than a bath, putting a 'hog' in the lavatory cistern, recycling household rubbish, disposing of household chemicals carefully, encouraging wildlife in the garden and composting vegetable cuttings." Americans too were not exempt from moral instruction: they could help "by driving less powerful cars or turning down the air conditioning". Meanwhile, it was suggested, Tony Blair might take advantage of his intimate relationship with George W Bush's back pocket and push a copy of the scientists' report into it. No doubt Bush would have found it much more entertaining than all those tedious Exxon men by whom he is normally surrounded.

Now that Tony Blair has decided that climate change and Africa are the very things to keep the headlines away from distasteful issues like war and privatisation, the Guardian provides us with a further riveting instalment. "Summer heat and sudden floods are a reminder that even the British climate has its extremes;" well gosh, can't argue with that. Nevertheless, if the consensus on global warming proves to be correct, phlegm and caution will prevail in the end: "heatwaves, storms, droughts and flooding will cease to be a surprise."

Furthermore, in a convenient tying-up of Tony Blair's two major compassionate concerns, "it is the developing world, and particularly Africa, that will take the brunt of the impending climatic disaster." However, in typically selfish and backsliding fashion, the British public is unwilling to take responsibility for the cars and airlines whose advertisements pay Alan Rusbridger's salary: there is "clear opposition (61%) to an environmental tax on air travel and scepticism too about road pricing" and "a lingering sense that voters see climate change as someone else's problem". There are still too many unregenerate cisterns out there. Work on it, people.

There follows an optimistic paragraph on the fact that, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll, a large majority of the British public want the Government to "take a lead" on the matter, and also to confront the chimp about the problem. This is a sign that, despite our inveterate stupidity and the astounding dearth of front-page news about the issue, "the threat of global warming is at last hitting home" to the stolid British public. So far as I have seen, the Guardian does not raise the question of whether Tony Blair is more likely to take note of British public opinion or of the people who pull Bush's strings; perhaps it was too obvious to mention.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Cabinet Split over Anti-terror Laws

Today is the sixtieth birthday of the Burmese political activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent the last nine years in detention under the natives' equivalent of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. The British Foreign Secretary, a statesmanlike figure consisting of a suit, a pair of spectacles and the wishes of Tony Blair, has called for her release. He referred to her treatment by the authorities as "indefensible" and said her release was not only "a moral imperative" but also "a crucial step" in beginning a process of "reform and political dialogue involving all political parties and ethnic groups".

The press do not appear to have picked up on the most important aspect of the Foreign Secretary's statement, namely the gaping rift it reveals in the British Cabinet between the Foreign Office and the hole in the atmosphere which replaced David Blunkett as Home Secretary. Surely the Foreign Secretary's statement can be interpreted in no other way than as a frontal attack on the Prevention of Terrorism Act and all the other protective measures with which we in Britain have been favoured since a foreign country was attacked in September 2001.

The Foreign Secretary's mention of reform and political dialogue is certain to cause considerable offence in the Home Office, and perhaps even in Downing Street as well. As is well known, the Prime Minister's preferred form of discourse is the repeatable ecclesiastic monologue; while "dialogue" with his courtiers is, by preference, limited to prepared statements from their respective press offices and "Thank you, Minister" from the media.

Such is the brazen contempt of the Foreign Secretary's statement that it even goes so far as to mention "the terrorist attacks in Rangoon on 7 May, which killed at least 23 people". If Aung San Suu Kyi's release is a moral imperative despite such a level of violence and intimidation, what are we to think of the Home Office's introduction of indefinite detention without trial in the face of nothing worse than some churned-up grass in Hyde Park and a maniac with an apple pip collection?

The Home Secretary has made no response that I am aware of, though given his belief in guilt by association he might well point out that Aung San Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, which places her in the august company of Kissinger of Indochina and Carter of Iran. Then again, given the exalted source of the Burma statement, I suppose the Home Office might be prepared to compromise over the British anti-terror laws. Assuming the Prime Minister's blessing and the White House's consent, it is not inconceivable that the Home Secretary may be prepared to excuse all Nobel Prize winners from indefinite detention, unless of course circumstances appear to justify it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Warm, Soft and Brown

The Chancellor has sent me an email. He wishes to update me about the G8 finance ministers' summit, which he believes "will be remembered as the 100 per cent debt relief summit". The Chancellor's grounds for this belief are not specified. I hope this doesn't mean that he confuses beliefs with facts, in the fashion to which his next-door neighbour is so unfortunately prone.

Talking of neighbours, the Chancellor is quick to pre-empt (if that is not too tactless a term) any speculation about rifts, ambitions, successions and so forth. "Tony and I are proud," he declares, "that with a Labour presidency of the G8 and the EU we have the opportunity to change the world for the better." So there you are. They're on first-name terms and everything.

That "Labour presidency" is rather fine, too; you'd think the G8 and the European Union had given the party of Team Tony and I a mandate to change the world, much as twenty-something per cent of the electorate did last month in Britain. The wicked, irreverent thought that the presidencies of G8 and the EU might carry a responsibility beyond party politics is clearly far below the famously sober half of Team Tony and I. Certainly Tony himself, with his healthy sense of self-esteem and his scrupulous non-rigidity regarding matters of fact, would have little time for the idea that the EU's rotating presidency, rather than bestowing itself naturally upon the deserving, tends merely to fall upon whoever happens to be next in line.

The Chancellor recounts that he has visited Africa to see our little brown brothers in their woe. "I will never forget the 12- year-old orphan girl I met. Her parents had died from Aids. She was already sick from tuberculosis. ... At an age when you should be optimistic and joyful with all your life in front of you, I could see only desolation in her eyes." But amid the "abject poverty" there is also "great potential". Yes: behind the sad brown eyes of every tubercular orphan girl, Thabo Mbeki is struggling to get out.

"As I planned Saturday's summit," the Chancellor continues. "that young girl's desolation was at the forefront of my thoughts." In that case, it's a good thing we have secretaries and pocket calculators to deal with the minutiae involved in planning a summit, e.g. planning the summit. It is to be hoped that the sober half of Team Tony and I has not started believing he can alter undesirable facts by the mere act of keeping them at the forefront of his thoughts.

Anyway, the Chancellor continues, "Every child is precious. It is because as parents we believe that every child is unique and deserves care that the world must act." That first homily is the title of the email: "Every child is precious". Somebody has spent too long in the company of pop singers. The second sentence is ominously Blairite in tone: we, representing The Parents, hold a belief, therefore everybody in the world must act upon it.

So what did everybody do? Under New Labour's brilliant presidency, the summit "wrote off 55 billion dollars of debts but went far beyond debt cancellation - with a plan for 40 billion dollars extra aid; a timetable for ending protectionist export subsidies, and new funds to tackle the scourge of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria." Apparently fifty-five billion constitutes a hundred per cent debt relief; either that, or the Chancellor's belief that the summit will be remembered as "the 100 per cent debt relief summit" rests on somewhat enigmatic grounds. "The meeting," the Chancellor continues, "demanded an end to unfair subsidies that do most for the wealthiest farmers in Europe but harm the poorest workers in Africa." Not only are we helping our little brown brothers; we are doing so at the expense of the perfidious French. Virtue truly is its own reward.

With exemplary tact, the Chancellor omits to mention the conditions which those desolate orphans will have to meet before they qualify for his compassion. Countries will have to "boost private sector development" and eliminate "impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign". Those scourges (you remember the scourges?) can be tackled, all right; but not unless there's profit in it. This charming Protestant practicality doubtless explains why the Team Tony and I League of Parental Righteousness seems so much less concerned about the precious ones in Iraq than those in Africa. We, with the world behind us, can help in as much as it profits us; but if bigger profits seem likely through starving, bombing and poisoning the precious ones, we must choke back a tear and do what's right. It's a market thing, you see.

Lastly, the Chancellor "knows", by what means I know not, that I share his hope that, instead of the desolation he saw, "there can be a new faith that tomorrow can be better than today". Hoping that our victims may find faith in unspecified future improvements appears rather a damp squib after the proud, world-changing, hundred per cent first paragraph. However, I share this hope with the Chancellor "as a Labour supporter"; which makes all the difference, obviously.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I Love the Smell of Ingram in the Morning

Every romance has its storms. The Independent has a report on a minor glitch in the Special Relationship between the United States and its little helper. According to Adam "Straight Talk" Ingram of the Ministry of Peace, American assurances about napalm-related activities have turned out to be - gasp - not altogether veracitous.

Of course, this raises serious questions. The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman was clear about where the priorities lay: "It is very serious that this type of weapon was used in Iraq, but this shows the US has not been completely open with the UK. We are supposed to have a special relationship." Darling, darling, of course we know about all those civilians you fried; it's the lying we find so hurtful.

The weapon - which has a codename to make it more fun to use and more exciting to write about - is "an evolution of the napalm used in Vietnam and Korea, carry kerosene-based jet fuel and polystyrene so that, like napalm, the gel sticks to structures and to its victims. The bombs lack stabilising fins, making them far from precise." It seems evident, then, that the people who design, pay for and use such weapons have no very great concern about who they incinerate. Nevertheless, assurances are now being sought from the Government that the weapons were not used against civilians. Optimism can be so charming when it drools.

Straight Talk claims that the US claims that thirty of the bombs were used over three days in 2003 "away from civilian targets". This, says the Independent, "avoids breaching the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which permits their use only against military targets." I am not sure why this is relevant, given the United States' well-known refusal to concern itself with such petty matters as legality; especially as it turns out in the very next sentence that the US did not even ratify the Convention for the pleasure of breaching it later.

Indeed, the Independent's whole report has an unpleasantly harsh and condemnatory tone to it, as though it were something out of the ordinary for ministers to lie to parliament, or for powerful imperial states to be less than totally candid with clapped-out post-imperial ones. It may not even be the case that the US officials lied to ministers; they may simply have been giving the British government that political pearl beyond price, deniability. It's cheaply cultured and badly mounted, but it's still a pearl; and it didn't fall out of its setting until after the election. What greater consideration could any humble servant ask for?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Admiration,n. The short-lived offspring of one person's skill and another's myopia.

Druptic,adj. In the fashion of a thumbless ape.
After seven and a half minutes of druptic fumblings, they gave up on sex and had a nice cup of tea instead.
Charmian Gleek

Fatal,adj. Inducing a marked and permanent moral improvement.

Idealist,n. Someone who tramples over us to make way for the unattainable. Cf. Pragmatist, someone who tramples over us to make way for his own ambition.

Leeway,n. The inch which is generally given immediately prior to the taking of a mile.

Manger,n. Cradle of the living embodiment of the Christian faith. Container for cattle fodder.

Phatic,adj. Scientific term for inane.

Spirit,n. That part of a law which the legislator's friends can trample even more freely than the letter.

Trapeze,n. Something from which an idiot swings to entertain us; a rather inferior modern counterpart of the gibbet.

Warlike,adj. An enemy suffering from a deplorable addiction to self-defence.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Gates of Hell

Once upon a time, a bright young fiend became curious as to what lay outside the borders of his native Hell; perhaps because, unlike many of his compatriots, he had not received an American education.

"What lies outside the gates?" he asked his manager.
"Use your initiative," his manager replied, as all managers do in Hell.

The young fiend considered asking his manager's manager, or even going further up the ranks to discuss the matter with a senior demon. He was aware that his career might suffer; but since all things suffer in Hell, this was not so great a concern as it might have been.

He quickly found out that only the most senior members of the Descending Hierarchy were likely to have any idea about what lay outside the gates; for only they could remember the gates being raised. Middle-rank and junior demons, who had spent their whole existence in Hell and had no personal recollection of Satan's fall from Paradise, were of no help whatever.

However, it is no easy matter for a mere fiend, however bright, to contact such Infernal luminaries as Beelzebub, Baal, Moloch or Mammon. All the great princes of Hell are isolated in their eternal suffering; Beelzebub by swarms of flies the size of cats, Baal by hordes of Bible-waving Gideons, Moloch by the ear-scorching wails of a million infants and Mammon by battalions of high-powered secretaries and self-lubricating sycophants.

After the debacle, the young fiend returned in dejection, took a brimstone sauna to clean off the hair-oil, and resolved never again to ask foolish questions. He remembered the time when, barely more than an imp, he had asked a question and, as an object lesson, had been taken by his teacher to see the damned being admitted to their unending punishment.

"Now," his teacher had said, "if thirty-four thousand children die on earth each day from the thriftiness of their neighbours, and eighty-five per cent of them are unbaptised, what is Hell's share of the souls?"

For she was, like all teachers in Hell, a mathematics teacher. But for once the young fiend did not shudder at the memory, as a sudden idea had struck him hard between the horns. He leapt from his bath and rushed to the place where his teacher had taken him, the huge processing area for souls newly entered into Hell.

Naturally, the place was Pandemonium. Everywhere were vast disorderly queues of the damned - cowering at the playful prods of imps trying out their pitchforks, cursing or screaming at their fate, fighting for last place in line. The ceiling was high and domed, specially designed to magnify every echo and reverberation; and wherever the eye might rest there were at least three signposts: one ambiguous, one confusing, and one which contradicted both the others. Ushers with huge teeth chased the terrified souls to their allotted punishments. Altogether, it was worse than a railway station, and almost as bad as a social security office.

The young fiend seized the first damned soul he saw. "What lies outside the gates?" he asked. But the soul simply stared at him in horror and made the sign of the cross. The fiend did not even pause to give the customary fiendish laugh. Hurling the soul back into the throng, he swiftly picked out another. "What lies outside the gates?" he asked. But again, the soul was too fearful to reply or too traumatised to recall.

The young fiend was about to grab a third soul when a horny hand fell heavily on his shoulder. The hand turned out to be attached to the largest and toothiest of the ushers. "What do you want?" the usher said.

"I want to know what lies outside the gates," replied the young fiend. "I thought one of these might tell me, since they've been out there so recently."

The usher bit its lip in confusion. Actually, because of the formidability of its fangs, it could bite both its lips at once, with an eyelid or so for dessert. "Why do you want to know that?" it said.
"Idle curiosity," said the fiend.
"Fair enough," the usher said. And, using its pitchfork as well as its claws and teeth, it cleared the young fiend a convenient route through the writhing mob of damned and right up to the gates; which the usher unlocked, at only the thirteenth attempt, with an electronic identity card.

The young fiend walked out through the gates. What he saw was void, without form, except for the bright light of Heaven far above and the somewhat tarnished blue light of Earth slightly nearer. The fiend could hear the sounds of war on Earth and, in between the explosions and screams, the complacent strains of the Heavenly harps.

As he turned to go back inside, he observed a little middle-aged man with a paintbrush in his hand. The little man was splashing paint across the outside of the gates. He had rather more energy than talent; but as the fiend watched, a design began to emerge: sunny blue skies, pretty little flowers, football teams, people with microphones, several television screens, and lots of sexual activity.

The fiend was overcome with admiration at this irredeemably pretentious act of vandalism. "What do you think you're doing?" he asked the little man.

"What does it look like?" was the reply. "I am painting pretty pictures on the gates of Hell. You see that?" He pointed his brush at the blackening Earth, incidentally spattering the fiend with paint from his horns to his cloven feet. "The oil has just run out up there, and I am a professional news editor."

Monday, June 13, 2005

News 2020

ID card negligence breeds crime, report says

The children of parents who fail to benefit from possession of the requisite number of ID cards show a disproportionate potentiality towards potential criminal potential as compared with normal people, a government study has concluded.

Single parents, benefits consumers and gipsies were among the groups most noted for consistent lack of sufficient identification when stopped and searched by anti-evilness police units.

These social groups often have low incomes and frequently fail to plan ahead and save so that their ID cards can be duly paid for and renewed at the random intervals necessary for terrorism prevention, according to the study.

The report, prepared jointly by the Ministry of Freedom and the Department of Human Resource Maturation, makes use of statistics from the government's newly liberalised juvenile tagging programme.

Until two years ago, juvenile consumers could be tagged only if they were more than five years of age and had at least one Muslim parent. But the government's recent deregulation of the benevolent surveillance industry means that today any human resource can be tagged if the Home Office considers it necessary for decriminalitisation of the family unit.

Many parents are so concerned at the possibility of criminal tendencies in their future retirement home provider that they have spontaneously requested the Home Office to introduce electronic tagging in the womb.

Home Office minister Bungo Flobbard said that parents' concerns were being given "the utmost consideration" by the appropriate departments.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Creative Mutations

Genetic engineering has now advanced to the point where it is possible to reduce by half the number of chromosomes in any cell of the human anatomy, and induce cells so treated to fertilise one another in the manner of the normal sex cells. Cells may be fertilised by their own kind or by others; so, for example, a lung cell may now combine with another lung cell or with a skin, heart, bone, brain or liver cell - all with equal ease.

The first experiments with this process were not entirely successful. The crudity of the earliest instruments meant that there was no choice but to treat all the cells of a living body at a single session. The first time this was done, it resulted in the subject's anatomy becoming the scene of a cellular sex orgy of vast extent and ever-increasing destructive power. As lung mated with lung, liver with heart and bone with muscle in a vicious and potentially infinite cycle, so the body of this unfortunate pioneer grew and expanded with frightening rapidity, and within a very short time it was necessary to transfer him to a large warehouse while the scientific team attempted to work out some method of dealing with the problem.

This turned out to be rather more difficult than it had at first appeared, since the continual reproduction of the cells in his body meant that no wound in the experimenters' power to inflict, no matter how severe, was grievous enough to cause a general termination of cell renewal (in laymen's terms, death). The subject eventually had to be treated with a continuous fine spray of dermally-absorbed poison directed at the entire surface area of his body; though time-consuming, tedious, expensive and doubtless painful, this method succeeded after a couple of weeks, when the cells left living on the inside began to suffocate beneath the weight of the dead ones on the outside.

Thankfully, a number of more sophisticated techniques have since been introduced, and various different types and combinations of cells can now be treated in isolation, usually with interesting results. The first successful mating of modified cells outside the body, involving two lung cells, eventually produced the airbag, a creature made exclusively from lung tissue and consequently useful only for breathing. Unable to nourish itself independently of the remainder of the human anatomy, this first specimen quickly died, but it was still thought that airbags, along with other organisms bred from modified cells, might eventually make themselves useful in the field of medical transplantation. Unfortunately, this has not proved to be the case, as the airbag appears to have an instinctive aversion to the process of exhalation. Even when it has inflated itself to its fullest capacity, the airbag will continue to inhale, and is thus liable to explode a patient within minutes of being sewn in place.

Hybrid unions of different types of cell have proven a more immediately fruitful avenue. The mating of bone cells with neurones from the brain, for instance, produced the bonehead, a creature whose body, like the bones of a human specimen, begins life soft and flexible, but ends brittle and hard. The lifetime of an individual bonehead, from beginning to end, lasts for about a week; and the eventual shape of the creatures, which in their final ossified state bear some resemblance to a sort of exotic coral, appears to be determined by the electrochemical activity of the neuronic material in each bonehead's genetic structure. Each bonehead is completely unique and unpredictable in its eventual shape and structure; and the creatures are now available on the commercial market, either as corpses or in grow-your-own kits, under such brand names as "Dimensions of the Mind" or "The Shape of Thought".

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Conformity,n. Society's strength, politics' courage, consumerism's virtue and education's reason.

Excessive,adj. Minimum necessary force, as used by the enemy.

Gossip,n. Someone who spreads damaging lies about you and/or damaging truths about others.

Knighthood,n. Hereditary defect which a monarch may bestow on someone other than their progeny.

Nebulous,adj. The policies of someone running for office, and the principles of someone who attains it.

Overdo,v.t. To carry an action too far towards its logical extreme, e.g. to practice in real life those virtues which you have hitherto had the good sense merely to tout.

Pupil,n. The one-way pane in what the ancients called the window of the soul. As any modern anatomist will tell you, the room from which the pupil looks out is small, dim and filled with two varieties of lukewarm slime. The ancients have an uncanny habit of being right about these matters, one way or another.

Statesman,n. Dead politician, who when alive made the kind of mistakes which are now coming back into fashion.

Wont,n. A habit, and therefore a contradiction of someone else's will.

Xylophagous,adj. Living off wood. The term applies to numerous lower forms of life, including species of worm, grub, louse and Hollywood film producer.

Zotch,n. Any nail, tent-peg, wooden stake or overcooked baguette which has been, or is in the process of being, hammered through somebody's skull with malicious intent.
And Mrs Heber went and zotched Sisera good.
Judges 4, xxi: Revised Trendy Version

Thursday, June 09, 2005

News 2020

Payback time for potential evildoers

The Government today announced new measures to mark the next phase of the war on dastardliness. The programme, Preventive Attrition of Youth for Better Acquisition of Counter-terroristic Knowledgeability (PAYBACK) has aroused controversy because of what some claim is its limiting of civil liberties.

The new law will allow for "moderate to harsh" physical and psychological methods to be used in determining whether a guilty suspect is going to confess.

The Home Office today denied that the law amounted to a legalisation of torture, or that confessions obtained under the new law would be suspect because of the circumstances in which they had been spontaneously volunteered.

"It seems rather curious that people who dislike the idea of harsh treatment for terrorists have so little respect for the stamina of those they are trying to protect," said Home Office minister Alec Trode.

"In any case, there is a difference between harsh treatment and torture. Torture is carried out by foreigners for the sadistic gratification of their perverted lusts. Harsh treatment is used only with restraint and in the most extreme circumstances of British national interest," Mr Trode continued.

He added that he had personally witnessed harsh treatment being carried out by men "who were literally eating their hearts because of what circumstances were forcing them to do."

The leader of the NuConLib Alliance, Boris Johnson, welcomed the proposals but said they did not go far enough and asked why only young people were being targeted.

The Home Secretary responded that the word "youth" was included for the purpose of "smoothing and improving the acronymisation process" and that the law would leave the law enforcement industry "all necessary flexibility" in the battle to prevent crimes being carried out.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Matters of the Spirit

One of Rupert Murdoch's less reputable tabloids today devoted most of its front page to the pressing spiritual problem of a minority religious sect: "A cash crisis in the Church of England is forcing bishops to consider radical moves including cutting clergy numbers by up to a third and making worshippers meet in each other's homes." A report to the General Synod suggests, among other things, training more people to work unpaid - a handy niche here for women priests, perhaps.

The spiritual descendants of the Twelve Apostles face the problem of falling membership and rising costs, "in particular the costs of keeping the Church's thousands of Grade 1 listed buildings in good repair and of paying clergy pensions and stipends". The Church's interesting interpretation of Matthew 10, verses ix-x apparently led it, during the 1980s, to lose "millions of pounds in property", which has led to a dwindling in "funds available from the centre to support parishes".

The Church still has assets worth more than four billion pounds, but denationalisation and the use of this wealth in the service of God's good work has been ruled out for the "foreseeable future", on the sensible grounds that it would cost the Church money. Instead, the Church has increased its demands on parishioners' pockets in order "to enable their church to pay its quota to the diocese" and in order to keep clergy pensions at the level decreed by their Saviour. Individuals, it seems, can live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; but the Church must have its bread. God helps those who help themselves.

The report concludes that "The structures and systems of the Church still bear the imprint of a pastoral era which assumed a predominantly conforming population." Even the Church of England must one day resign itself to the disappearance of the pastoral rack, screw and stake, those instruments of faith so well suited to encouraging prompt payment of tithes. "The Church of England," says the report, "needs to be turned around by God and move in a different direction." Apparently someone other than God has steered the Church of England to its present pass. I wonder who that could have been.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

News 2020

Pensioners not what they used to be

The Minister for Obsolete Human Resources, Phesten Mitts, was booed and shouted down by angry elderpersons today as he tried to give a speech.

The minister had been invited to speak by the National Pensioners Convention, but was unable to finish his interpretation of the statistics as hundreds of senior citizens whistled, shouted, and made threatening gestures with mobility aids.

Mr Mitts attempted to calm the volatile audience, saying that the Government was all about reintroducing respect to society and that the seniority-enhanced should sympathise with this aim.

The pensioners are believed to have been irritated by Government figures showing that one in three pensioners live below the poverty line. They interpreted this as meaning that there had been "no improvement" since the NuLabLib Coalition came to power nearly a decade ago, when one in three pensioners was living below the poverty line.

Mr Mitts said that this interpretation of the figures was "perhaps unduly negative". He said that the Government faced the difficult problem of an ageing population and falling birth rates, while pensioners faced only the prospect of spending a relatively short portion of their lives on a relatively low income.

"The Government is working to ensure that this period becomes ever shorter in the forseeable future," Mr Mitts continued before a hail of false teeth brought his speech to an unscheduled end.

The minister later expressed his regret that "people old enough to know better, people whose children are being blown up for democracy all over the world even as we speak" could not take a more responsible attitude.

"There was a time in this country when most of the pensioners had been through two world wars, but were still a good deal more meek than that lot," Mr Mitts continued.

However, the minister added that the Government was "encouraged" by recent reports that nearly two thirds of Britain's pensioners do not feel valued by society. "It seems that the sensible majority still has a firm grip on the reality of the situation," he said.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Back the Bid with Tony

God's little messenger speaks to me once more. "Dear supporter," he writes, "As many of you will know, I am a passionate supporter of London's bid to bring the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to the UK for the first time in 64 years".

There are several startling revelations here. The fact that I am a supporter of Tony Blair - for it is he - came as something of a shock, as always. Even more surprising is the fact that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were apparently held in London in 1948; perhaps most interesting of all, from a personal point of view, is the fact that many of me will know about Tony's passionate support for the bid. But Tony says it, so it must be true.

"London's bid," the doggie further imparts, "has captured the imagination of the British public. ... Over two million people have directly registered their support for the bid and all the major political parties are united behind it." I seem to remember a time when two million people directly registering some opinion or other was decried as mob rule, mass ignorance, the very antithesis of New Labour democrato-niceness. Now, I wonder what that could have been. It's on the tip of my tongue. No, it's gone. Anyway, the major political parties are united, which is of course what counts.

The reasons for this outpouring of democratic feeling in our normally apathy-sunk electorate are not difficult to see, according to the shield and buckler of St George W Bush. A London victory on 6 July would mean:

- "thousands of new jobs" for the duration of the Games and the preceding chaos;

- "the chance to host athlete preparation camps up and down the country" for anyone fascinated by athlete preparation;

- lots and lots of used sports equipment, "five temporary swimming pools and four arenas redistributed across the UK after the Games end". New Labour may not be so hot on redistributing wealth, but we've got Millennium Dome Tony's solemn promise on five swimming pools and four arenas;

- "a UK-wide cultural festival" of advertisements, medal counts, petty xenophobia and twenty-four-hour, seven-day, back-played, slo-mo'd, re-capped, millisecond-to-millisecond coverage of anatomical freaks demonstrating the effectiveness of various pharmaceutical concoctions by performing various pointless activities;

- "the largest volunteering opportunities ever seen in post-war Britain" for those who enjoy working for nothing; and

- "a sporting legacy for the whole of the UK which will be felt for generations to come." Tony likes his legacies to be felt for generations to come, whether in the UK or further afield. The cancer capital of the Middle East, for instance.

But enough of mere material things: " as well as these tangible benefits, there is also the boost to our national pride". Perhaps this time we'll win almost as many gold medals as some of the Americans! I can feel my bosom swelling as I type, honest to Cheney I can. And don't forget "the inspiration our children will feel by (sic) witnessing the world's greatest sporting event on home soil" and the pathetic inability of our rotting infrastructure to cope with it all.

Oh, it will just be too, too jolly.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

News 2020

Internet deregulation a success, Government claims

The Government's programme to deregulate the internet and encourage free communicativity has been largely successful, a new report claims.

Thanks to the Government's measures, the so-called "blogger boom" which threatened freedom of speech and endangered responsible journalism during the early years of the century has come to a definitive halt, the report says.

The Minister of In-Touchness, Dermot Feely, expressed satisfaction at the report's verdict and said that the measures demonstrated the Government's continuing commitment to energy conservation and free speech.

"The introduction of the corporate webspace discount and the extensive measures we have taken to safeguard the responsible usage of electronic communicativity potentialities has constituted a considerable upgrade in British life enhancement," Mr Feely said this morning.

Allan Fusbudget, ex-Guardian editor and author of the book on journalistic standards Valuing our Living, was quick to agree with the minister's statement. "Life is a lot less confusing for our readers now that sources of conflicting information have been reduced," Mr Fusbudget said.

Mr Fusbudget was referring to the phenomenon of "bloggers", a peculiar mass phenomenon from the early years of the century which used the non-deregulation of the internet to promote a wide variety of conspiracy theories and controversial political positions.

Many bloggers were anti-semitic or recruitment centres for terrorist groups or paedophile rings or used bad language. Some even suggested that Israel was a terrorist state or that the late George W Bush had won election as President of the United States by unfair means.

A few pressure groups have claimed that the corporate webspace discount has reduced freedom of speech by limiting it to multinational companies which can afford the webspace fees. However, many such pressure groups are thought to be composed of former bloggers and their reliability on the matter is said to be "questionable".

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Transports of Wonder

My local Tube station is a masterwork of British design. There are two entrances, one which leads to the main street where most of the passengers come from, and one which does not. If you go in through the entrance which is not accessible from the street, you encounter the ticket machines, the kiosks and the electronic barriers, in that order. This means you can purchase your ticket, place it in the slot on the barrier and have it sucked in and electronically read, whereupon the barriers open and you can go downstairs to the platform.

On the other hand, if you go in through the entrance which is accessible from the street and which is used by perhaps ninety per cent of the people entering the station, the order is reversed. First you pass the stairs to the platform, then the barriers, then the kiosks, and finally the ticket machine. This means that one cannot purchase a ticket without first going through the barriers, while the whole point of the barriers is that one needs a ticket to go through them.

London Underground's original policy was simply to leave the barriers open. Passengers would walk in off the street, go through the open barriers, buy tickets, about-face, walk through the barriers again, proceed to the platform and continue their journey in London Underground's accustomed cleanliness, comfort and quiet. Since most stations are so constructed that one cannot usually get out unless one gives the barriers some paper to eat, attempting to travel without a ticket is at best a fairly pointless gamble. Nevertheless, as the vicious and hooded among you will already have surmised, open barriers constitute an opportunity to get onto the platform without first paying for a ticket. This is intolerable.

In recent months London Underground has instituted a new intolerability prevention policy, which apparently has been conceived specifically to augment the surreal genius of the station's construction, as well as providing previously unheard-of opportunities for queue augmentation. They have closed the barriers and stationed three or four customer journey facilitation operatives about the place. When you enter the station from the street, you simply queue until you come face to face with one of these operatives and then inform them that you wish to purchase a ticket. The operative will then open the barrier so that you can join the queue at the machine or the kiosk and purchase the ticket, whereupon you can then go back to the barriers and be electronically permitted to pass through in the other direction.

This policy is, of course, applied largely (for all I know, solely) on weekdays during the morning rush, so that its benefits can be felt at their most emphatic.

Friday, June 03, 2005

We Happy Few

A Sanguinary Dialogue for Corpuscles

How's it going, lad?

We're beating them back, Sarge, but - oi! You civvies - get out of the way there!

What was that about?

Bloody Reds getting in the way again.


Too bleeding right, Sarge. Look at them - there's an epidermal breach up there, so what do they do? Flock tofuckingwards it, that's what. Get away, you silly bastards.

They can't help it, son. It's their nature.

I know it's their nature, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Little biconcave disky bastards.




Bastards. Anyway, how can it be their nature? They belong here in the circulatory system, just like us.

Yes, but they're full of haemoglobin, aren't they. Makes them wild for oxygen. They can't resist it. As long as the system's secure they'll go with the flow, pick it up at Respiratory Central and drop it off wherever it's needed; but you let that old epidermis get breached and see what happens.

But what does happen? I mean, once they get out there?

According to their religion, they die in ecstasy and their souls go to the Liver for rebirth.

The Liver?

The Heavenly Hepatic Portal, they call it. Daft if you ask me.



Bastards. Makes you wonder why we bother.

Now, lad - none of that. It's a dirty filthy job we do, but somebody's got to do it and that somebody is us. Without us, the whole system would collapse.

Where's the fucking Platelets got to, that's what I'd like to know. Help us seal that breach and stop the Germs getting in.

Seen any Germs, have you?

Just a couple, Sarge. The lads got them proper.

No trouble?

Well, Binty scoffed a big one and had a bit of indigestion afterwards, but he's all right now.

Good. Here come the antibodies. Should be an end to this nonsense now.

Hang on, Sarge - here comes another one -



Blimey, he's a nasty one. Anchors tattooed on his cilia and all.

Nyah nyah nyaaah nyah! Yuuuuurgh!

The antibodies don't seem to be having much effect on him.

Game little buggers, though, aren't they.

What's that they're yelling?

Dunno. Sounds like Banzai or something. They always shout it when they're on the squeeze.


Well, they're not squeezing that one, are they? He just belches and they drop over. Look, there goes another lot.

Quaaah, no fucking wonder. Belch like that would lower property values in Rectum Gulch. I think we'd better help out.


Summon up the blood, Corporal.

Right you are, Sarge. Come on lads - once more unto the breach.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

News 2020

Listen to the children, say ministers

The five children involved in this year's junior school lynching have been released without charge thanks to the personal intervention of the Home Secretary and the Ministry of Freedom.

The five, who cannot be named until the Sun publishes their parents' memoirs, were all involved in the hanging of a younger child from their school. "This case proves the importance of listening to our children," the Minister of Freedom said.

According to police reports, the execution proceeded swiftly and "was very professionally carried out," although it is noted that the rope was too short and the consumer died of slow suffocation rather than instantaneously from a broken neck.

However, the report makes it clear that no sadism was intended. "He probably kicked a bit, and the kids would have enjoyed that," said the father of one of the children released today. "But they didn't mean anything by it, they were just doing their best."

The Home Secretary and the Minister of Freedom intervened when it became clear that the children were acting for the general good despite being technically "in breach of the law".

Police discovered that the executionee was a loner and misfit at school. This was confirmed by his teachers, several of whom commented on his imprudence at allowing himself to be outnumbered. The five children had also suspected him of carrying weapons in his pockets.

"This was untrue, as it happened," the Home Secretary said today. "Nevertheless, it was their deep and sincere belief, and I'm sure nobody would deny that, had they been correct in that belief, their actions would have averted the most deplorable consequences."

The Ministry of Freedom's interest in the case was aroused by the children's claim that they had heard the culprit being called "gay" by some of his classmates. They had also seen the Government's controversial advertisements on prime-time children's television, encouraging children to "keep an eye out" for terroristic behaviour while regularly reminding their parents to help maintain consumer demand.

"Although technically legal after the age of majority, homosexuality is widely regarded as immoral and disgusting and I don't think it's right to make adverse cultural judgements against people who hold that opinion," the Minister of Freedom said today.

Both ministers expressed satisfaction that the children could now go home. It was "somewhat ironic", the Home Secretary said, that society made heroes out of those who saved lives by preventing the use of real weapons, while other interventions, equally sincere and deep but slightly less based in reality, often drew criticism and even hostility as a result.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Satanic Supplement

Bank Holiday,n. Religious festival in honour of England's sterling saint.

Evacuate,v.t. To remove from endangered areas all those whose violent public demise might make war seem less palatable.

Family,n. One of the many convenient pretexts for dismissal from Cabinet employment.

Justice,n. Process of discovering the margin by which those crimes outlined in a suspect's confession outweigh those committed in its extraction.

Nonaclembit,adj. Not quite properly aligned.
She could see, thanks to his over-tight trousers, that no matter how invitingly his buttocks might wiggle, they were still noticeably nonaclembit.
Maura Skiffelbrunk

Pulverise,v.t. To reduce to dust. Not to be confused with Publicise, to reduce to rubbish.

Quibble,v.i. To raise a pertinent objection without having force at your disposal.

Self-determination,n. The right of a people or nation to kill and rob one another, instead of having these services performed for them by an imperial benefactor.

Tourist,n. Someone who adds to the market value of a country's attractions by paying for the privilege of helping to ruin them.

Worn-out,adj. Any argument which lacks the courtesy to remove itself from your attention, even in the face of your repeated and persistent failure to refute it.