The Curmudgeon


Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Moon is Very Bright Tonight

A Tale

You can hear them at night, in the corridors, prowling. Particularly these nights. At first they were quiet, stealthy. Now they no longer feel the need, or perhaps it is just that I listen harder, though I try not to listen at all. I need to sleep more. Everyone says so.

I would like to sleep more, but that is difficult here. There is a lot of noise at night. There are howls, screams. That happened again last night. Someone made trouble. He mangled himself, they say. The stains are there still, out in the corridor. They are faint, but definitely visible. Someone was definitely mangled. It is the season for it, they say. There is a lot of it about.

Some people sleep through the nights, but they could sleep through anything. They sleep through the daytime too, although their eyes are open. If it were possible, I also would sleep through the daytime, so as to be more alert by night, but this is not possible. One should sleep by night, wake by day. The reverse is not approved of, and is discouraged. The days here are noisier than the nights.

Most of my sleeping is done between dawn and waking-up time. This means a couple of hours a night in summer, and rather less in winter. At the moment it is winter. I have never been here in winter before, and I am very tired. I am difficult to get out of bed in the mornings. The staff complain about this, and the doctor questions me about it on the infrequent occasions when we see each other.
"You look tired," he will say.
"I feel fine," I will reply. The doctor is large and overbearingly healthful. His hands are broad, with long hairy fingers.
"Perfectly fine," I will say. "I just get restless in a strange bed."
I have to be careful what I say. Sometimes they threaten me with sleeping pills, though the threat is not made as a threat.
"Wouldn't you like to try, just for one night?" they say. "See what a difference it will make."

I keep on refusing, as casually as I can. If I were adamant about it they would start to suspect that my need for the pills was greater than they had supposed.

Already I have to taste my food very carefully, just in case. I do not think they have noticed this yet. My appetite has never been large, certainly not for the food they serve here. The portions are either too big or too small, and usually undercooked. The potatoes crunch and the meat bleeds. Nobody complains. The doctor eats with gusto, as if to show us all a good example.

I do not know how many people here are like me, aware but silent. Nobody talks very much, and nobody says anything at all about what happens in the night. It is possible that I am the only one who hears anything. It is equally possible that everyone hears everything, or that I hear less than most. You cannot communicate here. I am not writing this to communicate.

This writing is a secret. Secrets here are not approved of, and are discouraged. "It is important that you tell us everything, so we can help you," they say.

The staff here keep on changing. It is impossible to keep track. They are supposed to wear badges so we know their names, but few of them adhere to this rule. I do not believe it matters very much. You can always tell who the staff are when it is most necessary.

The occasions when recognition is important are medication time and whenever violence breaks out. These occasions often coincide. Many people here do not like taking medication, but most of them are too drugged to think of effective ways to avoid it. They either swallow it without objection, or else they object violently and are forced to swallow it. I have never been violent, so I am trusted to take mine. Nobody bothers to check under my tongue.

I am not proud that I can get away with this. Often it frightens me, because I think they can afford to let me do almost whatever I like. After all, I do not know how many of them there are, and if I did know I could never do anything about it.

Someone is making trouble again tonight. Out in the corridor there are yells, howls. The soothing voices of the staff are drowned in echoing scuffles and howls. Soon the voices fade, blending. I am sitting here looking out of the window. The moon is very bright tonight, and full.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


The Robert Aickman Appreciation site has been kind enough to publish another of my pieces on his work. Should you be interested, previous examples of the site's tolerance may be found here and here; and if you're interested enough to spend money, my sole appearance in print can be found here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Small Business Strangled by EU Interference

Not all Britons are like those softies at the Home Office who cannot deport sufficient people to make ends meet. A law and order enthusiast in Suffolk has diversified his farmer's trade to construct gallows for export to "countries in Africa and the Middle East". A traditional platform gallows sells for £12,000, and for the real stickler for law and order there is the "multi-hanging system", a mobile apparatus made from the trailer of an articulated lorry and capable of disarticulating five or six necks at a stretch.

Like the Vicar of Downing Street, this benefactor of humanity has a selective view of human rights, which are inalienable only in the law-abiding. He is careful to note the built-in safety features of his merchandise: "The production of gallows is for law and order, not for bad people to get hold of it. You can't pick up a set of gallows and go and shoot someone with it. Gallows can't fall into the wrong hands like knives or guns", Africa and the Middle East being notable for the orderly and law-abiding nature of their governments.

Along with "a senior British police officer and army servicemen, as well as people from America, Africa, Canada, Denmark and Germany", his supporters include "Americans coming off the [Mildenhall] airbase shaking my hand, telling me they totally believe in what I'm doing and we need to get law and order under control." The people who have got law and order under control are people like Tony's new chum Colonel Gadafi: "You are safer walking down the street in Libya and African countries than you are here and that's because of capital punishment ... They are laughing at us in third world countries because we've got no deterrent against crime. They are the only ones who have got law and order under control."

When not engaged in woodwork or learning from foreign cultures, this benefactor of humanity studies genetics as it applies to forensic science: "With modern science and the ability to trace DNA, the chance of having someone wrongfully arrested is zero." He cites the case of Anthony Rice, who committed murder after being released from prison after a sixteen-year sentence for rape. "If that man had been used with my gallows he would never have killed again," he said. "How many lives have been saved because of people like me with the gallows?" Perhaps the crime rate in America is so high because they use the wrong methods to execute people; or perhaps it is because the Americans don't have a gibbet in every market place: "there is more deterrent when a person is hanging there and they see that door open and they drop".

Despite his combination of moral fervour and core British values (entrepreneurialism, legality-and-orderliness, and the enthusiastic approval of the United States armed services), this benefactor of humanity may shortly be prevented from carrying out his honest trade. The same European Union which has de-flavoured our crisps and regulated our sausages will be bringing in a new regulation on 31 July, which may choke off the burgeoning cottage industry, apparently by classifying the gallows as "torture equipment". This is clearly undemocratic in the extreme: "There are so many people in the world who believe I am right that you cannot condemn it."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

An Almost Potentially Serious Matter

Although Iraq's spiritual leader designate has stated that "there is no vestige of excuse for people to carry on terrorism or bloodshed", it seems there are at least reasons, for some people, anyway. Islamists, Saddamists and other sadists of the Muslim nationalist persuasion need no emotional or ideological frills to start blowing people up, but when an American marine falls victim to an occupational hazard, the massacre of twenty-four alleged civilians becomes at least comprehensible. "A picture is gradually emerging of a small group of troops who lost control in the wake of an unrelated attack on their vehicle, which left one of their comrades dead." Despite the loss of control, there were "no pockmarked walls", according to a congressional aide; so apparently the grieving leathernecks retained their marksmanship despite six targets of the undersized variety. It is widely expected that the investigations into this outburst of rottenapplitude will result in "the courts martial of several marines and possible (sic) charges of murder." It appears that other charges might be possible instead; after all, "claims that US marines massacred Iraqi civilians" could have potentially serious consequences. The British Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, no less, has observed that "reports of the unprovoked killing of up to two dozen unarmed Iraqis would be 'appalling' if proved accurate" because our boys are "doing difficult and dangerous things in unpleasant circumstances on behalf of their country" - Iraq, presumably - "and they need the support of the people in their country". Accusations of this sort "make that harder to achieve", which is obviously too bad.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Globalising Values, Actualising Abstractions

The Vicar of Downing Street appears to be limbering up for the coming years on the lecture circuit. After a bit of a gambol at the White House, during which George W Bush said things about Iraq and Iran and his reverence agreed with George W Bush, Tony informed the world that a "hopeless mismatch" existed between the challenges faced by the modern world and the global institutions which are meant to deal with them. In other words, "the west would sometimes need to take pre-emptive military action abroad, even if it was not on the basis of definite information", and the antiquated behemoths of international law have yet to take cognizance of this fact.

His reverence appealed, once again, for a certain geometrical delineation to be appended to a certain issue: "It has been three years since Saddam fell, and it has been three years of strife and bloodshed but it has also seen something remarkable." His reverence finds nothing very remarkable about the strife and bloodshed which has accompanied his most extensive exercise in global value-sharing. "How could we possibly, in the face of such a struggle so critical to our own values, not see it through?"

On the subject of values, his reverence homilified that "We should stand up for our own values, asserting that they are not western but global values". The global values he referred to are "liberty, democracy, tolerance, justice"; so given the present state of liberty, democracy, tolerance and justice in the US and Britain, it is certainly arguable that they are not western values. Nevertheless, "These are the values universally accepted across all nations, faiths and races, though not by all elements within them"; in other words, these values are global except for those who do not accept them. "These are values that can inspire and unify", if only a few troublesome elements in Haiti, Iraq, Palestine, Uzbekistan, Bolivia, Venezuela and the spinally endowed portions of the parliamentary Labour Party would listen to George and Tony and do as they are told.

But even these universal values, which are shared by almost everyone except those who do not share Tony and George's idea of them, "will only succeed if they are seen to be fairly and even-handedly applied." A few decades ago, "countries could wait, assess over time, even opt out, at least until everything was clear. We could act when we knew". Now, however, "we have to act, not react; we have to do so on the basis of prediction, not certainty; and such action will, if not usually, then often be outside of our own territory." So we must act whether or not there is any cause for it; and such action will often, if not usually, trample over the sovereign rights of other nations. Naturally, they will not be permitted to do the same to us; we are the ones with the global values, after all.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

News 2020

Industry sponsorship of foetuses set for early delivery

The Government has announced new reforms of the reforms not previously reformed under the previous reforms of the reforms of the previous Government, the Government announced today.

The new package of reforms "continues the Government's agenda of integrationalising education industry throughput with the requirements of industry and high street spending," said the Minister of Life, Culper Squamous, today.

Under the new reforms, companies with "provenly positivistic records of track in the social responsibility market" would be able to offer "life sponsorships" to developing foetuses from up to six months before birth.

The developing human resources would be electronically tagged while in the womb with a permanent "benignancy beeper" which could be read by electronic scanners in high street shops and industry-approved schools.

When the human resource matured into a consumer, the beeper would enable shops and schools owned by the sponsoring company to give special discounts and privileges to those who had the appropriate sponsorship profile.

The presence of benignancy beepers would also enable industry to regulate high street spending through induced integrationalisation of customer spending patterns, according to Blattner and Scumble, who manufactured the prototype.

The leader of the opposition, Boris Johnson, criticised the proposals as "an interference with the basic right of free shopping and therefore as invidious a dilution of Britishness as can possibly be contemplated."

However, in an unexpected move the Minister of Life denied Mr Johnson's allegations. "The Government's proposals are a true middle way forward to victory in the war on non-integration and the absolute and permanent cauterisation of the Gordian knot which has blown up in the faces of so many who tried to extenuate the work-life balance before," Mr Squamous said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Life later confirmed that Mr Squamous' statement was a denial of Mr Johnson's allegations.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Extraordinary Unilaterality

The leader of the Righteous State has informed the Palestinians that he does not intend to "wait indefinitely for the Palestinians to change." This is called "extending the hand in peace".

The Righteous State intends to re-draw its borders by 2010 and it appears that the Palestinians have two choices: (a) to agree to everything, in which case Israel will do as it pleases, or (b) not to agree to everything, in which case Israel will do as it pleases. The reason for this is that "the possibility of promoting a genuine peace process" has been severely undermined by "the rise of Hamas ... which refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist and regards terrorism as a legitimate tool". This is certainly problematic; not least because, if terrorism is not a legitimate tool, the legitimacy of the Righteous State's own foundations begins to look a little shaky.

According to the "backstory" supplied by Britain's leading liberal newspaper, the Righteous State wishes to "impose a border that cuts deep into the West Bank, nearly cutting it in half east of Jerusalem, and taking large amounts of territory around the Ariel block in the northern West Bank". The plan would require the uprooting of about sixty thousand illegally settled Israeli colonists, who will be so unfortunate as to end up on the wrong side of the Righteous Fence. In compensation, about 350,000 illegally settled Israeli colonists will be annexed unto the Righteous State itself. This is called "unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank".

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Disputed Scores

As our civilising mission in Iraq grows ever more accomplished, we can return our attention to a previous beneficiary. US warplanes have killed scores of Taliban, according to a headline in Britain's leading liberal newspaper. The first paragraph states that "US warplanes killed up to 80 insurgents and 16 civilians". Up to eighty insurgents - that would be "scores", certainly, assuming "scores" to be multiples of twenty rather than numbers in the Great Shoot-Em-Up Game. A little later, however (after reporter Declan Walsh has filled us in on the exact types of fighter jets and helicopters which were used to "pound" the village of potential talibanoids), it emerges that the US-led coalition claims twenty (one score) Taliban confirmed killed and "an unconfirmed 60 additional Taliban casualties". A villager who survived the raid estimated "up to 40 Taliban were killed (two score or less) and that "fifty civilians were dead or wounded" (two score or more). Notice that the villager's estimate of up to ninety casualties is rather close to the US estimate of eighty actual and potential talibanoids plus sixteen collateral detrimentees; the difference being that, to the US and Declan Walsh, all villagers are potential talibanoids, while relatively few US-inflicted casualties are potential civilians. The idea that the US might have killed "at least sixteen civilians" along with its score of talibanoids does not seem to occur to Britain's leading liberal newspaper; while the vignettes of native suffering in Walsh's story merely serve to point up the likelihood of future problems for real people: "The violence may be just a taste of what promises to be a long, hot summer for British and other western troops in southern Afghanistan".

Monday, May 22, 2006

A New Beginning, Again

A holy light dawned briefly in the terror-blackened, oil-producing fledgling democracy of Iraq today as the Vicar of Downing Street took his grin to Baghdad to indicate that the newly elected democratic government, Iraq's latest fresh start and its first democratic government in quite a while, is in no danger of being unseated by the forces of depleted humanitarianism. His reverence referred to something called an "Iraqi-isation strategy", under which he and his chums have "had the perspective of building up the Iraqi security force capability", presumably so that the personnel at the permanent bases which the Americans are busy constructing can go about their business in peace.

Now that the latest sovereign Iraqi government has been elected, his reverence proceeded to inform the natives what he wanted from them. "There is no vestige of excuse for people to carry on terrorism or bloodshed", since from now on the Iraqi people are to "write the next chapter of Iraqi history" according to the dictation of their benevolent masters.

His reverence noted that "as they [the native regiments] build up, we are able to draw down" our own presence. "That is what was envisaged in the UN resolution under which our forces are here" - specifically Security Council Figleaf 1546, which recognised a written request by the well-known Iraqi patriot and freedom fighter, Ayad Allawi, "to retain the presence of the multinational force" (viz. the invaders). That force, it was noted with apparently straight faces all around, was committed to "act in accordance with international law, including obligations under international humanitarian law, and to cooperate with relevant international organizations", as the United States and its allies have so often been prone to do. The resolution also affirmed "the importance of international assistance in reconstruction and development of the Iraqi economy"; but it must be remembered that this was in 2004, when some American corporations still thought there might be profit in such ventures.

Apparently there is still hope. His reverence wishes to "offer technical help in setting up the fledgling administration", so it seems there is room for private enterprise after all. Let us hope the fledgling administration is permitted to grow and flourish as Tony wishes - presumably into something with lots of anti-terror laws and not too many trains running on time, with a selectively non-selective education system that teaches Iraqis not to keep asking us to apologise for the past.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Paranoiac Style and its Apex

While the early hundred and sixty-threes were undoubtedly a time of considerable social upheaval, not least because of the unanticipated combustion of Haematoma the Submersible in a still controversial cooking accident, the fact remains that the basic structure of society continued intact. Even the forcible enclosure of the Flunghaven beetroot-furrows by Haematoma's successor, Aethelbrunch the Paranoiac, caused considerably less trouble than was anticipated at the time, and may even have led indirectly to improved co-operation among the northwestern picklers, who were to become such a power in the land during the subsequent half-century. Indeed, some scholars have contended that the period's reputation for chaos and anarchy is the result largely of an overly credulous attitude on the part of historians towards contemporary documents, which were habitually written in a style of exaggerated fear and horror in an effort to gain the diplomatic upper hand by displaying the writer's moral sensitivity to its best advantage. During the reign of Aethelbrunch this tendency was carried to its apex, to the extent that practically all the surviving documents from the period, including six diplomatic letters to various potentates, two stonemasons' bills, and a warrant entitling Aethelbrunch's vassal Murgatroyd Swungbroom to do his uninhibited will upon all cloven-footed animals north of the Cheviots, tend to give the impression that horrifying doom is both near and inescapable. The stonemasons' bills, for example, both specify at considerable length the torments to be undergone in the event of non-payment, as was customary; what is uniquely characteristic of Aethelbrunch's reign is that the threatened punishments in the event of payment in full are scarcely less severe, including as they do such measures as transverse purging and epiglottal dislocation, which were considered severe even for the notorious, and approximately contemporaneous, chutney-burners of Hanleigh Barton. This has led some historians to conclude that the stonemasons of the time either grew too arrogant and were forcibly suppressed, or else became deeply discouraged and imposed impossible tariffs to cause a collapse in trade, something the picklers were later to attempt in protest at the furrow-capping regime imposed by Aethelbrunch's successor, Chuntbucket the Incapable. However, the number of buildings erected during Aethelbrunch's reign, including the magnificent but ultimately failed castle at Gleekwater, which sank without trace after seventeen months, would seem to tell against this hypothesis, particularly since death by drowning is not included among the threats on either the stonemasons' bills or the signed notes from Aethelbrunch's chancellor, Glockflocculus the Adhesive, which accompanied payment.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

They Don't Think Like Us

The terrorists in the Guantánamo Bay anomaly have demonstrated their ability to bruise and contusionise their guards using weapons improvised from ordinary household items such as "lights, fans and pieces of metal". According to the base commander, the violence began when prisoners set upon guards who were trying to "aid ... a detainee pretending to hang himself". Presumably they were trying to save him for future interrogations rather than help him renounce his inalienable right to life; in any case, the calculating use of suicide to entrap military humanitarians in a potentially deadly situation is certainly characteristic of the New and Unprecedented Threat. As if that were not evidence enough, two other prisoners have this very week "made suicide attempts by swallowing prescription medicine they had been hoarding" - suicide and drugs combined in a lethal talibanistic terror tactic.

Nevertheless, human rights activists, civil liberties lawyers and other bleeding hearts continue to see these calculated acts of aggression as "a sign of growing despair among the prison's inmates". That such wilful naïvety can still exist, after all we have heard from such experts on terrorist psychology as the Vicar of Downing Street and his mission-accomplishing chum in the White House, is disturbing in the extreme. We know that terrorists hate freedom, and we know that the inmates of the anomaly are terrorists. How, then, can they be despairing over the lack of what they hate? On the contrary, the forty-one suicide attempts and twenty-three instances of "self-injurious behaviour" since the anomaly's opening will be seen by all right-thinking people as continuing proof of the need to keep the world safe from these bad guys, at least until the war for universal democratisation has been won.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, anonymous officials claim to have captured a leading Taliban commander who is thought by somebody or other to have masterminded a recent wave of suicide bombings. The leading Taliban commander, who has only one leg, in the tradition of leading suicide bomb masterminds, claimed in December to have two hundred suicide bombers ready to attack the forces of goodness. This presumably explains the relevance of his possible capture to the malicious suicide attempts at Guantánamo Bay.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Lard of Hope and Glory

It is of course a myth that the famous British beer-belly was invented in the United States and exported here during the Second World War. Although a primitive and extremely smelly form of beer-belly, modelled on an original design by Benjamin Franklin, was patented by Henry Ford, the provisions of Lend-Lease did not allow for its export to the United Kingdom even in the darkest days of 1940. This was a source of much resentment to Churchill who, while maintaining a friendly demeanour in public, in private went so far as to accuse Roosevelt of attempting to place "an unnatural and starveling restriction" upon the dimensions of English manhood.

The first appearance of the authentic British beer-belly probably dates back to the reign of King Alfred, who is of course famously credited with personally founding the so-called carbon-intensive school of English cooking which remained popular for nearly a thousand years until superseded by the granulo-aquatic tradition now enriching the nation. Concerned at the influx of imported Danish brands, Alfred saw that the creation of a genuine national beer-belly would alone suffice to repulse the invaders. After the notorious burping contest at Uffingham, the Danes agreed to an accommodation.

Although the beer-belly continued to flourish in Britain throughout the Middle Ages, it would be a mistake to think of its being deliberately cultivated in the sense we would understand in the twenty-first century. Among the monks of Lindisfarne, the beer-belly was considered a token of penance, the holy and God-given sign of having retired to a life of contemplation and humble labour with only enough servants to ensure that the brewing process was not interrupted by prayers. By the time Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the sixteenth century, the beer-belly had erupted onto the secular scene, an event perhaps most spectacularly observed in Henry's dismissal of the Pope's navel as being "noe farther from his Buttockes than his Eyes one from the other".

It was, however, only during the Regency years that the beer-belly received formal Royal patronage, as the future George IV hired the finest architects in the land to ensure that his own personal beer-belly would have adequate space for expansion and sufficiently beautiful surroundings to enhance its natural splendour. It was at this time, also, that the truly modern beer-belly began to come into its own, with rapid streamlining and sophistication resulting from improvements in raw material and technology. The crude wooden beer-bellies favoured since the days of Bede were replaced by bellies of iron and steel, covered in soft Indian cotton and equipped with piping systems that were the envy and terror of the French.

The conquest of India and subsequent invention of the take-away meal meant that, by the middle of the Victorian era, the British beer-belly resembled its modern counterpart in almost every respect; however, with the rural and urban working classes still largely in poverty and the bourgeoisie inculcated with Puritan values of abstinence, the beer-belly remained largely the province of the upper classes until the twentieth century. It remained only for the effects of global warming, and the rise of international spectator sports, to ensure that the modern British beer-belly would take on its distinctive purplish tinge and wobble with hairy belligerence into the face of an awed and respectful world.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Listening Government

The Bush administration's nominee for head of the awesome CIA has informatised a congressional committee that wiretaps on American citizens are perfectly legal, even when a warrant has not been obtained. Well, there's a surprise.

The nominee in question is Michael Hayden, who is a former director of the National Security Agency. "No one has said there has been a targeting decision made that hasn't been well-founded," Hayden said. Given that the NSA is so accountable that almost nobody had heard of it until about ten years ago, it seems likely that no one has said a lot of things. "We have a very strong oversight regime," Hayden said. I'm sure the KGB were strict employers, too.

The NSA, under Michael Hayden, has amassed a database of call records of tens of millions of people. "There is a probable cause standard," Hayden said. "Every targeting is documented." Obviously, this enhances the legality of the process no end. "Clearly the privacy of American citizens is a concern constantly," Hayden said. "We always balance privacy and security." This is certainly reassuring.

Since leaving the NSA, Hayden has served as deputy to the director of intelligence, John Negroponte, whose commitment to democracy and human rights helped make Honduras the paradise it was during the 1980s. Hayden has promised that he will "speak truth to power", doubtless with total and selfless disregard for the wishes of the power that appointed him.

His appointment appears to have come about through some kind of mathematical determinism: "The math was pretty straightforward. I could not not do this," he said. He noted that, in the process of balancing privacy and security, "Targeting decisions are made by people in the US government most knowledgeable about al-Qaida, al-Qaida communications, tactics and procedures." As in the United Kingdom, the useless red tape that results from involving an independent judiciary in the government-citizen interface experience has been efficiently dispensed with.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

News 2020

Hot, dry summer could lead to moisture shortages, report warns

Parts of Britain could face hydro-disconsumption and conservation measures including rationing and fluidity restriction orders due to the inadequacy of the country's preparedness in the war on drought, a Government report revealed today.

Thames Water and Associated Throughflow plc, the company which the Government has contracted to pipe water from Ghana into the London system, said that the moisture provision industry would always be happy to do everything it could under the prevailing economic and physical circumstances.

Nevertheless, a spokesman said that hydro-product consumers could also do more to prevent shortages.

"If people could only wash less and desist from flushing their lavatories, especially when the temperature rises during the summer, this would go a long way towards a very real prospect of situational consolidation and eventual amelioration once the commencement of pluvial precipitation began again," a spokesman said.

The leader of the opposition, Boris Johnson, condemned the Government's "structural culturology of nonpreparednessism" and claimed that measures to stop people washing would be a breach of their civil rights and would lead to "millions of innocent citizens" being arrested for breach of the Axillary Sociability Statutes (ASS).

The Minister for National Desiccation, Wetherby Duckworth, denied that excessive amounts of fluidity-oriented merchandise were being lost through failure to replace old pipes. "The losses of moisture through infrastructural superannuation have been taken into account and are not considered to have a degree of unacceptability which cannot at the moment be lived with," he said.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Is Your Child British Enough?

The Minister for Maximal Efficientiation of Late Juvenile Resources proposes that eleven-to-sixteen-year-olds should be inculcated with "traditional British values" as part of an "attempt to challenge extremism and promote a more cohesive society". He thinks they should be taught about "free speech and democracy", too. Apparently the Minister believes that the right of all British adults to vote for the business-friendly war party of their choice is the product of "core values", rather than of a long and painful process of wringing a few civil rights out of a ruthless and pig-headed elite. Indeed, far from being "core British values", the spreading of power and the exercise of free speech have often been hysterically denounced as the final, apocalyptic end of everything that is worthy of the name of Britishness; not least by the Vicar of Downing Street himself.

The Minister also intends to promote what the Guardian's education correspondent tactfully calls "the contested view" that Britain, "a historically Christian society" which, at the height of the church's power, burned heretics with the best of them, was "founded on freedom, democracy and liberty". Aside from the eminently contestable view that freedom and liberty are two different things, the claim that Britain was founded seems strange, to say the least. When did this foundation take place? Was it when the Anglo-Saxons drove the Celts into Wales (freedom of travel), or when the Romans subjugated the Anglo-Saxons (Operation Britannic Liberation), or when the Normans conquered the country (it isn't whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game); or perhaps when the barons forced King John to recognise the fundamental human rights of peasants, women and the unemployed by signing Magna Carta? Perhaps, since it is British rather than English values to which we refer, the foundation took place with the conquest of Wales by Edward Plantagenet, or with the drawing and quartering of William Wallace, or with the creation of Northern Ireland.

The Minister told the Guardian, "I very strongly believe that we are a multicultural, diverse society and I think that gives us incredible strength and richness"; nevertheless, our strength is not quite incredible enough to endure without the propagandising of our children and the putting in their proper place of religions inferior to the historical one: "Some of the demands that are being put forward are unrealistic and I think we have to have a public debate and be clear about what counts as reasonable and what does not," said the Minister.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

News 2020

Houses of Parliament must go, writes Blair

Lord Blair of Belmarsh has written to the Home Secretary advising immediate "repeal, refusal and replacement" of both Houses of Parliament, it was revealed today.

In his letter, Lord Belmarsh advocated "immediate and decisive action" to remove the House of Commons and the House of Donors from Britain's constitutional and governmental system.

"It is clear from recent events that in a modern democracy these institutions are a purblind anachronism, which could if left unchecked pose a serious danger to the achievements and legacy of the great years since 1997," the letter states.

"The rule of law is a noble and precious thing, but there comes a time when the game changes and the moral imperative means that one must simply do what is right. I have lost forty-seven socks in the washing machine since 2003 and it has got to stop."

"The elimination of unnecessary red tape is central to the opportunification of enfreedomisation and the incentivisation of initiativity which are the eternal characteristics of our supernal British realm," Lord Belmarsh concludes.

Acting in accordance with the public service targets laid down by Lord Belmarsh himself when in office, the Home Secretary responded within 24 hours with a note thanking him for expressing his views and stating that the letter would be given very serious and thorough consideration.

The former prime minister and three times Daily Mail Man of the Year often writes to members of the Government from his terror-proof mobile bunker, sometimes several times a day.

The Home Office today issued a statement of "categorical refutation" that Lord Belmarsh's letters were written in purple crayon, and criticised as "unwarranted and disrespectful speculation" the claim that most of them were written on lavatory paper.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Not Quite Asylum Seekers

There are in Britain at this moment, it appears, up to several immigrants with whom the Home Office has no problem. Two of them are Charles Munyaneza and Célestin Ugirashebuja, who are fifty-fourth and ninety-third on the Rwandan prosecutor general's list of a hundred suspected participants in the 1994 atrocity which, as Mark Curtis has pointed out, John Major's government did much to facilitate. Among other services to the slaughterers, the British ambassador proposed, as the party got under way, that the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda be reduced by about 90%; and in April 1994 Britain drafted a UN resolution which rejected the use of the term "genocide" as a description of what was going on. Had the term been used, intervention would have been not only legal (unlike some other interventions I might mention) but obligatory.

However, genocide suspects are not among the sorts of suspect whom the Vicar of Downing Street has promised to harry, hassle and hound out of the country. Accordingly, the Home Office has dismissed the warrant which the Rwandan government issued three months ago for Munyaneza's arrest, on the grounds that "the UK does not have an extradition treaty with Rwanda and police were under no obligation to visit the suspects". Due process is back in fashion, it seems; for some of us, at least.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Old Friends

The Vicar of Downing Street's sermon to the Indonesians a few weeks ago has borne sweet fruit; the authorities are "virtually certain" to drop all the charges of corruption against Britain's former ally and aid recipient, Suharto. According to John Aglionby of the Guardian, Suharto is ailing, is aged 84, is ailing as a result of two strokes, ruled for thirty-two years, is ailing with brain damage, was deposed a year after Tony came to power, and is ailing in hospital after colon surgery. The ailing former president's praiseworthy activities during his years in power, including substantial butchery among his own people as well as those of East Timor, were enthusiastically supported by the United States and hence by Britain. This was obviously a matter of principle since, as Tony himself has told us, the mention of oil as a motivating factor in our dealings with other governments, no matter how fragrant, is the mark of a demented conspiracy theorist. The idea that BP or Britoil's interests in the region might have helped resign successive British governments to the demise of a few tens of thousands of troublemakers is thus clearly on a par with the idea that the Vicar of Downing Street might have some ulterior motive, beyond the then much-proclaimed influence of "ethics" on foreign policy, for opposing a war crimes tribunal either for the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the concomitant butchery, or the Indonesian intimidation campaign in 1999 for which Britain considerately supplied the Indonesian armed forces with jets. I am sure that, in accordance with the ethical dimension of British foreign policy, the packaging for the jets was clearly marked "For Legitimate Self-Defence Only", or at least that a memorandum of understanding was obtained; but it seems odd that Tony should be unwilling to take the Indonesian government to task for having so flagrantly disregarded his instructions. Perhaps compassion holds him back. Suharto is ailing, after all.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Strongest Yet

Despite being the Vicar of Downing Street's consultant on those merely legal matters which must be disregarded in the great war of Right against Wrong, Peter Goldsmith seems to have developed a sudden concern over Guantánamo Bay. "It is time, in my view, that it should close," he said in a speech last night. "Not only would it, in my personal opinion, be right to close Guantánamo as a matter of principle, I believe it would also help to remove what has become a symbol to many - right or wrong - of injustice." There is apparently some room for doubt in Goldsmith's mind as to whether people are right or wrong in viewing Guantánamo as a symbol of injustice. I wonder what matter of principle he has in mind. As New Labour's consigliere, surely he cannot be thinking merely of public relations.

Since Goldsmith was apparently at pains to stress that he was expressing personal views rather than those of his paymasters, we may take it that the Bush administration is not going to be in much hurry to act on his advice. If Tony himself were to speak up, of course, it would be a different matter, given the provisions of the Special Relationship and the great and ancient transatlantic bond which has brought such benefits to Britain in the past, and during the last three years particularly to over a hundred members of Britain's armed forces and over fifty British civilians. But Tony cannot speak up, because Tony is on the side of Right, and the Bush administration is on the side of Right, because the Bush administration says so; and the Bush administration further says that the people in Guantánamo are on the side of Wrong. "The fact of the matter is that the people there are dangerous people and ... one thing we don't want to do is release people now who might at some point in the future end up on the battlefield facing our troops ... or committing acts of terrorism," said a state department flunkey today. If those people in there weren't dangerous people, the Bush administration would "like nothing better than at some point in the future to close down Guantánamo", presumably because some people, like Peter Goldsmith, think there is some room for doubt as to whether its remaining open might not possibly constitute an injustice. Clearly, the situation is a sticky one all around. "Nobody wants to be a jailer for the world," the flunkey continued. Those bad guys in Guantánamo should, like the rest of us, be grateful to be spared the dilemmas which plague our beloved leaders.

Still, Goldsmith's remarks were, according to the Guardian, "the strongest British condemnation of Guantánamo yet"; which is an eloquent tribute to the restraint shown by one bad guy in lying about his experiences there.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Sloggard Episode

It was early in the reign of Bottelhassop the Addled, while the mulliners were fibrillating in the southern quinsy, that the infamous Prurience Sloggard began making himself known among the common people as a "Healer and Comforter", usually by setting fire to old women and publicly slashing their mattresses. Little is known of Sloggard's origins. He is thought to have been born in Lower Yattering, the second son of a mendicant toadwiper, and to have served as a brevet pillager during the protracted and complex local skirmishes which followed the fatal seating of the mayor, Sir Curdibras Mattock, on a brace of skewers one midsummer. After order was restored under Basingstork the Unlikely, the young Prurience Sloggard was apprenticed to a nearby filleter and ladies' outfitter, but seems to have found either the work or his master uncongenial, since he left after only a few months having learned little beyond the rudiments of whalebone corset-making. Many years later, at his trial, Sloggard claimed that he differed with his employer over the possibilities of a new innovation involving cod; but the surviving documents make this assertion impossible to verify. Sloggard was, in any case, a notoriously unreliable witness, claiming at the same session of the trial that he had been a friend of Sir Curdibras Mattock and had, through his supposed gift of prophecy, warned him against placing his body-weight on sharp objects. Aside from the unlikelihood of the pious and superstitious Sir Curdibras ignoring such an oracular pronouncement had he heard it, the social spheres in which the two men moved were almost ludicrously non-contiguous. Indeed, a popular parlour game of the time, "Twenty-Six Degrees of Prurience", turned on the very fact that connections between the two were virtually nonexistent, and for decades the mention of both their names in the same sentence was considered an hilarious faux pas. Sloggard made himself notorious in the area over a period of about six years, during which he roamed between towns and villages abominating all who stood in his way; but when he attempted to elope with the fifteen-year-old Lady Goneril Mickelgizzard he overreached himself fatally. Caught at Stoutley Preening by his mortal enemies, the de Boleprangs, whose grandmother's metatarsals he had caused to be displayed in the market-place only the year before, as a warning to the unheeding, Sloggard was taken in chains before the Lord High Paperhanger and sentenced to be fetlocked, quired and galligaskined, his property condoned by the state and his issue slung at Midgeley Hampton and cashiered in unconsecrated ground.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Protecting Innocence, De-Aggressivising Interfaces

David Cameron continues to define his role as the acceptable face of New Labour with a speech to corporate leaders at the annual conference of Business in the Community today. Criticising British Home Stores for selling come-hither lingerie to under-tens, he expressed concern about "the impact on children of the increasingly aggressive interface of commercialisation and sexualisation". The protection of "childhood innocence", whatever that might mean, "against premature sexualisation is something worth fighting for." On the other hand, he has "no desire to wrap kids in cotton wool", which presumably means that premature commercialisation remains acceptable. The owner of British Home Stores claimed that the offending underwear was withdrawn within twenty-four hours "three and a quarter years ago", which proves once and for all that David Cameron is not as far behind the times as his party might prefer.

In the course of pledging to "stand up to irresponsible big business", as opposed to the responsible big businesses which fund the Conservative party, Cameron said that when he saw businesses behaving irresponsibly he would "speak out". He believes that "If a supermarket opens a convenience store on the high street and uses its financial muscle to drive down prices until small shops are forced out of business - and then immediately puts prices up again - we need to complain", though not, apparently, to pass any laws. On the other hand, "firms prepared to publicly commit to behave responsibly could be rewarded with a 'lighter touch' from government on enforcing red tape". This would mean that "The same rules would apply to them as to all businesses - but the presumption is that they are in conformity unless proven otherwise." In other words, once Tesco committed itself to a form of words promising to behave in a fashion which the Conservative party and its sponsors found acceptable, the Government would assume it was behaving well unless someone else went to the trouble and expense of showing it was not. None of this, David Cameron assures us, need constitute "socialism by the backdoor".

Monday, May 08, 2006

Their Finest Hour

Purgatorial VE Day Dialogue for Beloved Leaders

Yoo-hoo! It's that time again ...

Conference of world leaders ... re-drawing the map of Europe ... keeping Britain great ...

Excuse me ...

Oh, it's you. Look, I've told you about forty times - why can't you just go around to the tradesmen's entrance where I could ignore you properly?

There is no tradesmen's entrance.

Nonsense. There must be one - this is Heaven, after all.

And as I've told you about forty times, it's nothing of the sort. This is Hell, though naturally much more so for you than for me.

And why naturally?

Because my reputation on Earth is so much worse than yours. Your name is still revered by millions as that of the man who made the world safe for Britishness, while mine is barely tolerated even among the few surviving souls who read that book of yours about me - Great Contemporaries, I believe it was called?

Don't start that again, please. It was not all about you. In any case, I compiled that book in 1937, long before you had shown yourself as the vicious, inhuman foreign hound we now know you to be.

Mein Kampf, two volumes, 1925 and 1926; Dachau 1933; Röhm purge 1934; Sachsenhausen 1936, Buchenwald 1937...

Get to the point, man. You always did engage chronically in the most excessive Teutonic verbosity.

The point is that, having no gross materialistic considerations to hold me back, I've progressed much further since my death than you have since yours, even granted the fact that I had a twenty-year lead. That's why I am sent here at this time each year, on the anniversary of your personal victory over Montgomery, to try and help you to leave these earthly matters behind. That, and the fact that we have so much in common, of course.

I have nothing in common with you. I am English and you are foreign.

But I've never held it against you. If you remember, I never even wanted to fight you. We both hated the French, the Russians, and assorted Middle Easterners; we could have become such good friends, if you hadn't been so racist.

The English-speaking peoples cannot in the opinion of this speaker be termed racist without some risk of terminological inexactitude.

But you will at least admit that National Socialism, as it was practised under my leadership, was far less exclusionary than your own beliefs.

My beliefs - exclusionary? Hardly. I believe in the British Empire. The British Empire at its peak spread over the whole earthly globe. There is nothing exclusionary about that.

But its rulers were solely the English-speaking peoples, and God help even them if they failed to speak English with the proper inflection. The Aryan race encompasses a far larger portion of humanity. It was a far more equitable distribution of mastery. You cannot avoid the fact - we were clearly more democratic.


It's really too bad that you can't admit how much the two of us have in common, not only politically but personally. If you would only join hands in brotherhood with me, I wouldn't have to keep smashing your face in.

You never smashed my face in. You never could - my allies were bigger than yours.

Ah, yes. That'll be why my country failed to conquer Russia in 1943, while the British Empire failed to keep Egypt in line in 1957.

That is hardly a logical argument.

No; it's a rhetorical argument. We were both rather good at rhetoric, if you remember.

That is not something we have in common. It is merely a demonstration that I possessed a certain oratorical and stylistic talent and that the German people are somewhat easily led.

There are some other points on which we were remarkably close.


To begin at the beginning: both our fathers were bad fathers - violent lunatics and loudmouthed drunks. The difference is that you in your turn grew up to be a loudmouthed drunk and a bad father, while I abstained from both alcohol and paternalism. And, of course, I was never a loudmouth.

Piffle. In staying unmarried you were merely indulging your miserable German superman complex - the strong man is mightiest alone, and all that. Then marrying that blonde of yours and committing suicide together, instead of standing up and taking your medicine like a man at Nuremberg. Playing at being a Wagnerian hero to compensate for the fact that you were only five feet eight inches tall.

While you were a towering five feet six.

I had presence.

You had girth.

At least I never resorted to ludicrous little moustaches.

At least I never resorted to changing sides whenever it suited me. I joined the National Socialists and I stayed there until I died. You bounced across the floor of the House of Commons like a brandy-soaked tennis ball.

It was necessary for the preservation of the Empire.

Precisely my own excuse. The fact that we have a party programme does not oblige us to act like fools, I said; or maybe it was Goebbels who said it, I can't remember at this juncture. Anyway, you can see that you took much the same attitude as I did.

I can't see anything of the sort. Everything in the English character rebels against that sort of chiselling Machiavellianism.

And then, of course, there is the matter of our artistic streak.

Artistic streak? I painted original watercolours. My works have been displayed in the best galleries in Christendom. You copied other people's work onto postcards and sold the results for pennies. Your human figures look like matchstick men.

I was a better architect than painter, it's true. Your colleague Mr Harris and his airborne urban clearance programme afforded me lots of opportunity for planning my real artistic triumphs.

You were a dauber. You couldn't even get into art school.

Your academic record wasn't the shiniest either, if I remember right.

That was not my fault. The teachers were awful and my parents failed to support me.

Precisely my own problem.

You always were a miserable little failure, weren't you? Even in your young days, when you got a decent war, you couldn't rise above corporal.

I was awarded the Iron Cross; and not just for writing propaganda for the press, as I believe was the extent of your duties in South Africa. Nor was I careless enough to get myself captured, despite being wounded in the cause of duty.

I was captured, it's true; but I escaped. Escape is the sacred duty of every English-speaking officer of good breeding. My bravery and cunning were written about in numerous publications, not all of them by me.

Using another prisoner's escape plan and leaving him behind? Cunning perhaps, but brave?

War is like politics. It's every man for himself.

Precisely my own opinion.

I doubt it. You are a notorious liar.

Only for tactical purposes. On the big questions I never wavered. The use of poison gas against uncivilised tribes, for example. The forced sterilisation of the socially useless was another. I advocated those things in Mein Kampf, I practised them when I came to power, and I recommended them in my last testament.

I don't believe you. You and your Socialist party were an outpouring of irrational hatred, worse than Ramsey Macdonald and almost as bad as Clement Attlee. You could never have arrived at policies of such vision and uncompromising depth of Britishness.

I've had about enough of this. Are you going to pull yourself together or not?

I don't know what you're talking about.

I mean, do you intend to sit here for the whole of eternity, mumbling to yourself about the good old days? I realise that you're handicapped by all those idiots on Earth singing your praises, but you really ought to have moved on a little by now. Even Max Aitken has made more progress, and he worked in the mass media.

Oh, go away. Otherwise I shall find some Americans and ask them for the tools to finish you.

It wouldn't help. You don't have a country to mortgage any more.

Ah yes, good old Lend-Lease ... entirely my own idea, of course ... conference of world leaders ... re-drawing the map of Europe ... keeping Britain great ... extensive use of tanks ... soft underbelly of Europe ... entirely my own idea ... never was so much owed by so many to Winston Churchill ... iron curtain ... riddle inside an enigma wrapped in ...


Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Case of the Shrinks

A Tale

For some time Fingler had been in the habit of slicing into his forearms with a razor. The incisions, though ugly, tended to be superficial, and by no means threatening to life or limb, or even of excessive clearing up afterwards. In fact, no less than three psychiatrists prior to Dr Izbod had informed Fingler that he was suffering from nothing more severe than an excessive desire for attention.

Fingler, therefore, was somewhat taken aback one day when, having just drawn his blade across half an inch of hitherto pristine wrist-flesh, he saw two hands emerge from the wound and grasp the skin on either side preparatory to hauling their owner out. Here he came now: a tiny man, quite plump for his height, and dyed scarlet all over. He found it a fairly tight squeeze; Fingler felt distinctly the little legs kicking at the inside of his arm, desperately seeking purchase on the slippery bone.

At last, with a sort of squelchy pop, the homunculus heaved himself free. This occurred with such suddenness that he rolled halfway across the room before he was able to clamber to his feet and turn towards the astonished Fingler. There was something strangely familiar about the tiny face; but coated as it was with blood and bits of fluff, as well as being distorted with pain or irritation, Fingler could not hope to place the resemblance. Before he could think what to do next, the man shook his miniature fist in Fingler's direction and disappeared, squeaking with righteous indignation, underneath the sofa.

Dr Izbod, as ever, was no use at all. "Why do you suppose you should have seen such a thing?" was his first question.

"That's hardly the point," Fingler replied. "I don't even know what happened, let alone why it happened."
"Perhaps," said Dr Izbod wearily, "the two are interlinked."
"Fine," Fingler said. "The two are interlinked. A man, less than an inch tall but who I may have met before, climbed out of my wrist yesterday for no other reason than that it was in fact yesterday. Thus time and event are inextricably connected, the whole thing was inevitable since creation began, and that's all there is to it."
"You seem," observed Dr Izbod, "a little ill at ease. Your demeanour betrays a certain ... sarcasm."
"Sorry," Fingler said. "Obviously I haven't the least reason for sounding like that."
"There's always a reason."
"Even for midgets who climb out of razor cuts and then dash under the furniture?"
"Well, if not for the midgets themselves, then at least for claiming to have seen them."
"You don't believe me," Fingler said, "do you?"
"That really isn't - "
"Go on, admit it; you don't believe a single word I've said. Your careful use of the subjunctive betrays a certain scepticism. Tell me the truth, now."
"Whether or not I believe you," said Dr Izbod, "is not at issue here." He leaned forward, elbows scraping his virgin blotter. "I believe the time has come," he said, "for some frank parlance between us."
"Good idea," Fingler said. "Frankly then: you don't believe a word, do you?"
"Never mind that," said Dr Izbod. "Do you recall what we talked about in our last session?"
"Yes," Fingler said. "You informed me what a rotten time I've been giving you and said you wouldn't treat me any more."
"A highly subjective rendering, but nonetheless accurate in its essentials. You seek attention, Fingler, through self-inflicted scars, because you feel that life is insufficiently dramatic, fantastic, or interesting, and that people will fail to notice you unless you do something extraordinary. Faced with this truth, which naturally you find unpalatable, you take refuge in bizarre fantasies like - "
"You simply don't believe me," Fingler interrupted. "Just come out and say so, why don't you? I can take it. Lord knows I'd be sceptical in your position, given the lack of any tangible evidence ... "
"You have a new scar on your left wrist," Dr Izbod stated, with the air of a man making every effort to be strictly impartial.
"Of course, but what does that prove? If only I could have shown you the little fellow himself, he was only about so high, but he ran under the sofa, as I mentioned, and I just couldn't get hold of - "
"As I was saying," continued Dr Izbod heavily, "and as I intimated last time we met: as long as you persist in this behaviour I can see no possible way to, ah, to improve, as I remember you putting it, on the diagnosis of my learned colleague, Dr Gloak, who referred you to me, and I am therefore just as unable as he was to - " He broke off. "What is it, man? Why are you looking at me like that?"

Fingler's jaw had dropped open and his eyebrows were as one with his hairline. "Gloak," was all he said.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Gloak," repeated Fingler. "That's who the little bastard reminded me of!"
"Rubbish, man," said Dr Izbod.
"I'm telling you the truth," insisted Fingler. "That's who it was! Gloak, of all people, clambered out of my arm and ran underneath the sofa. Damn! No wonder I couldn't catch him. Even when you haven't taken a bath in someone's blood, you doctors are a slippery lot."
"For heaven's sake, Fingler, get a grip on yourself." Dr Izbod reached for the telephone. "I'm going to cure you of this latest idiocy right away, and at no extra charge. I'm going to call Dr Gloak and ask him precisely what he thinks of this ... this stuff you're spouting here." He picked up the receiver, one eye searching Fingler's face keenly for the first hints of embarrassment, to be followed by hurried retraction and contrite apology for wastage of the doctor's valuable time. But no embarrassment was visible; Fingler was as interested as the doctor, perhaps even more so, in whatever Gloak might have to say.

A few moments after dialling, however, Dr Izbod hung up with a frown and tried again. Then he looked up the number in his diary and tried a third time before giving in. "Number's unobtainable," he said. "I wish Gloak had had the courtesy to inform me beforehand, and you can take that smug expression off your face this minute, Fingler. This means nothing, nothing whatever, do you understand? God in heaven, man, what are you up to now?"

His voice rose considerably as Fingler rolled up his sleeves and took the razor from his pocket. Flourishing the blade at the doctor like a hat pulled out of a rabbit, Fingler placed it to his own right wrist and slowly made the cut. He did it most carefully, partly because the razor was in his weaker hand and partly because the hand itself was trembling with excitement and anticipation. By the time he had finished, Dr Izbod was running round and round the blotter, shrieking incoherently. Fingler plucked him up and stuffed him head first into the new incision. He bandaged himself with his handkerchief and sauntered out, nodding happily to the receptionist on his way. Sooner or later, no doubt, the urge would come upon him again, and he would use the razor and be forced to let Dr Izbod escape. Sooner or later, no doubt; but, he thought with contentment, not for a little while yet.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Unaffected Considerations

The attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, is considering whether to ask the Righteous State to allow the extradition and prosecution of the soldier who killed James Miller, a British cameraman, in Gaza three years ago. Apparently Miller's family believes there is something wrong in a member of the Israeli Defence Force shooting dead unarmed noncombatants. Goldsmith is also considering a request by Tom Hurndall's family to prosecute the senior officers "who are being held responsible for his death", despite the jailing for manslaughter of the hapless Bedouin who, evidently by accident, put a bullet in Hurndall's head. "I will give this my personal consideration and that will be a consideration unaffected by political considerations," said the considerable Goldsmith, whose appointment by Tony Blair was, presumably, devoid of political considerations. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the current greatest threat since Hitler, I don't suppose the insipid Goldsmith is in line for that particular mantle; but he may well be in peril of falling into self-hating Jewishness unless he considers his considerations correctly.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Goodbye Charlie

If it is true (and I believe the Sun has denied it, so it may well be) that Cardes Clanke offered his resignation over the scandal of insufficient deportations but was refused, we now know why. The Vicar of Downing Street was saving him up for a more opportune moment. It is not as yet clear whether Clanke was offered a different Cabinet post in which to be the best man for cleaning up his own mess, or was simply and summarily retrobencherated; but since he has been replaced at the Home Office by the Minister for Pre-emptive Quagmiry, John Reid, there seems little cause for rejoicing. Reid made a speech last month in which he noted that the Government and its fellow crusaders for righteousness are being "hamstrung" by international law, and that "something none of us are thinking about at the moment" might be poised to leap out of the woodwork and attack us at some necessarily unspecified time in the future. This does not seem to bode well for a sane perspective on identity cards, police powers or "legislative and regulatory reform". Reid will be replaced as Minister for Invasive Democratisation by Des Browne, whose experience as Minister of State for Nationality, Immigration and Asylum will doubtless have fostered the necessary firmness of attitude towards foreigners. More recently, Browne has been Parliamentary Private Secretary to Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces Minister; and, since last May, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Presumably, then, he knows both what a cruise missile does and what it costs the taxpayer. This is certainly encouraging.

In other news, the empty suit leaves the Foreign Office to become an empty chair as Leader of the Commons, and is replaced by tactful Bomber Hoon for Europe and by Margaret Beckett for the rest of the world. Beckett has spent the last four years and eleven months as minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is obviously a good start. Before the local elections disaster, there was some speculation that the Vicar of Downing Street might wish to split the Home Office, since it had become too unwieldy and bureaucratic even for someone of Charles Clarke's calibre. Never one to be swayed by good advice, his reverence has apparently decided to split the Foreign Office instead, even beyond the split he imposed when he appointed himself Minister for Transatlantic Self-Abasement.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

News 2020

CBI urges action on environment

The Confabulation of Business Interests has urged the Government to take urgent action on climate change.

The CBI's urging is thought to be a response to the latest season of environmental disasters in Asia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the north of England and the Antarctic.

"Environmental dysfunctionality is in the process of becoming a significant factor in the detrimentation of transnational investment profiles," said CBI chairman Nigel Feasting-Piranha today.

The Government has taken previous urgent action on the environmental question, most recently by metaderegulation of the suspect restraint market so that water companies can run their own prisons for potential hosepipe ban violation perpetration suspects.

However, Mr Feasting-Piranha said today that further urgent action was needed. "I would urge the Government to action urgently, he said today. "There is a real potentiality for environmental detrimentation of investor-efficient labour sources with resultant inconvenientisation of influential market forces," Mr Feasting-Piranha told journalists.

Environment minister Cameron Rhode-Pyglett welcomed Mr Feasting-Piranha's statement. "Urgent action on the environment is just what the Government has been planning for the last six months," he said.

"In the coming financial year we will urge businesses, very actively, to consider adhering to those voluntary guidelines which, in their own considered judgement, will not unduly affect their performance in the marketplace."

However, Mr Rhode-Pyglett admitted that the loss of cheap and flexible labour from Third World environmental disasters could potentially cause "blips" for investors.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

News 2020

Newborn suspects may be tagged in radical new proposals

Radical new proposals for the proposition of new radicalities for opening a radical new front in the battle to win the war against red tape were unveiled by the Government at a special proposal-unveiling today.

The proposals, which are among the newest the Government has unveiled until recently, could result in fast-tracking for pre-emptive penalisation of suspected potential criminals after as little as two weeks outside the womb.

Under the radical proposals, which the Home Secretary stressed will be voluntary until appropriate legislation has been passed, potentially anti-social elements will be computer-tagged by means of a simple surgical operation which a spokesman described as having "a very high painlessness ratio".

Tagged suspects will then be permitted to grow up and earn "freedom points" by not doing anything wrong. Those who reach working age without earning enough freedom points to justify their continued residence in the UK will be liable to pre-emptive controllability enhancement directives and possible deportation to Africa.

Suspects who gain sufficient freedom points during their working lives will be paid a bonus when they reach retirement age, subject to the general economic climate and the cost-benefit ratio resultant upon the societal effects of the surveillance, the Home Secretary said.

The leader of the opposition, Boris Johnson, condemned the Government for failing to propose to deport enough people, particularly young white males in hoods.

"This is nothing less than a savage betrayal of all that is meant by law, freedom, travel and Britishness," Mr Johnson told an anti-unveiling conference earlier today.

The Government has said that white people "will not be deported for the duration of the primary instances", out of respect for African tribal sensitivities. Mr Johnson described the statement as "absurd" and said that it showed the Government's disregard for both history and the present day.

"The history of penal transportation is a large and proud proportion of our common heritage of Britishness," he said. "Without the removal of white suspects to Australia and the consequent opening of the aboriginal drink market, the modern wine and spirits trade might not exist in the form in which we now have it."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Go Forth and Breed, for the British are Dying Out

The incalculable misfortune of two whole generations without a world war has led to a slothful and self-centred culture in which, according to a Guardian/ICM poll, "Britain's low birthrate is being driven by a generation of potential parents who would rather get rich and have fun than start a family". Note the healthy, family-oriented perspective: there is no such thing as a working, fun-loving adult; there are only potential parents whose irrational urges to earn a living and amuse themselves occasionally are letting the side down. The Guardian's leader page fumbles the point home with characteristic dexterity. "Just as the sunny, spring air is laden with testosterone and the nesting instinct reaches all the way to the unpromising window ledge of the Guardian's London offices, ICM finds that parenthood is held in pitiful esteem", it mourns. "From our poll emerges a picture of a material culture where having babies comes second to almost anything else. It is seen as less important than a good job, an enjoyable career, and 'enough' money". This is certainly distressing. The idea that potential parents should let dead-end employment, lousy wages, brutal working hours or borderline poverty stand in the way of the moronic urge towards genetic self-perpetuation is almost too awful to contemplate. The Guardian also deplores the poll's finding that "most people think a woman's status rests on how she earns her living", which seems a little odd. Since most people presumably think a man's status also rests on how he earns his living, surely this is a sign of healthy progress in gender attitudes. The idea that anyone's status should rest on how many brats they have in tow belongs in a society with too few people, not too many. The Guardian observes that "Maybe the French have a point with their baby bounties for second and subsequent children. They certainly underline the positive message that children count", at least so long as they are being turned out in sufficient numbers. In a world on which humanity writhes like a barrel of maggots while half the biosphere is poised for disintegration over the next century, it should be self-evident that "the English race" (as designated by the official number-one Briton and superdad, Winston Churchill) must continue its historically ordained expansion. Precisely how "the qualities that sustain wider society in good health - tolerance, forgiveness, loyalty, riding out the bad times as well as enjoying the good" can be sustained by turning parenthood into some kind of government-subsidised cottage industry is, however, evidently more apparent to the Guardian's leader writer than to me.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Compulsory Democracy

With the Home Secretary too busy to remove any of our civil liberties this week, two of his colleagues have decided that we should be forced to take advantage of those that remain to us. A think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, backed by think-halftracks Geoff Hoon and Peter Hain, has discovered that young people, besides wearing hoods, are "only half as likely to vote as those aged 65 and over", and that poor people are just as troublesome: "11% fewer manual workers voted in 2005 than their non-manual counterparts - more than double the gap when Labour came to power in 1997".

The second point hardly seems cause for concern; it is simply the result of Labour's successful shift of its core vote from people who don't matter to people who do. Nevertheless, Hoon and Hain are worried. "Falling turnouts should concern us all. Differential turnouts are even more disturbing," said Hoon. "Bringing government closer to the people must remain one of our key priorities," said Hain. "This report convinces me more than ever that we must consider radical measures to renew our democracy," said Hoon. "In Australia and other countries, the civic duty to vote reconnects those who are distanced from the democratic and political process, producing consistently high turnouts without any complaints whatsoever about infringing individual liberty," said Hain. The answer, you see, is to make voting compulsory and abstention punishable - you can have any pro-war, pro-privatisation party you like in Tony's Choice Emporium, but failing to enter the mall is simply not an option. We and Australia do, after all, represent the forces of civilisation.

Rather bizarrely, the shadow for constitutional affairs, Oliver Letwin, objects to the idea on the principle that "honest citizens could face fines of £40 or more from zealous town hall bureaucrats for failing to vote. We have already seen how speed cameras and parking fines are being used to rake in ever more money, on top of soaring council tax bills." Perhaps Letwin believes that speeding and illegal parking should not be punished, on the grounds that it causes the Government undeserved revenue; or perhaps he supports the extension of indefinite detention to driving offences.

The Institute for Public Policy Research noted that "people also need to know that their votes will count. Compulsory turnout is not compulsory voting. Ballot papers can be spoiled or can contain options to vote for 'none of the above'"; but it is far from clear that, as the Institute's associate director claims, "only voter duty can stop the haemorrhaging of turnout". The simple inclusion of a "none of the above" option on ballot papers, without introducing a legal compulsion to vote, would mean we could avoid the spectre of yet more back-of-an-envelope NuLab legislation and nip in the bud any neurotic Letwinian misgivings. However, it is not clear whether Hoo and Ha, let alone their beloved leader, are prepared to be quite so permissive of voter destructiveness. After all, if the public are already too lazy to vote, presumably a vote for "none of the above" will mean simply that we are also too lazy to choose.