The Curmudgeon


Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Milestone on that Treadmill to Democracy

"With the execution of Saddam, the life dossier of one of the world's most criminal dictators was closed," proclaimed Iranian television as the government welcomed the hanging. Saddam Hussein started a war with Iran which lasted for eight years and killed a great many people; but he was hanged for something else, because the West paid his bills. "Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops," proclaimed George W Bush, rather accurately. "Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice", or, in Standard English, stringing him up after a bit of a trial to amuse the folks, "will not end the violence in Iraq," Bush continued, rather accurately; "but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror" because, well, hangings tend to have that effect, especially when they fail to stop violence. The Vicar of Downing Street made no comment at all, possibly because he is too busy being star-struck at the home of a Bee Gee. His Minister for Lesser Breeds stressed that the Iraqis were responsible for stringing up Saddam Hussein and for televising the moments immediately before and immediately after his execution. Britain does not support the death penalty "in Iraq or anywhere else", except possibly for the United States, where it is more anomalous, some of the time. Anyway, it is encouraging to see that Tehran and Washington have found something to agree upon at last: Tehran approves of hanging former US allies, and so does the US. It may provide a useful alibi should somebody - Olmert bar Sharon, perhaps, or even, in a final, explosive orgasm of transatlantic co-operativity, the Vicar himself - decide to rain liberation on Iran during the New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Not Necessarily Our Kind of Immigrant

After much whining and foot-dragging, Britain has finally arrested four of perhaps twenty-odd asylum seekers who are accused of taking part in the mass murders which took place in Rwanda in 1994, "while the rest of the world looked on" as the Guardian hath it, and Britain did its best to help the slaughter along. The Rwandan government has assured the Ministry for Dealing with Uppity Natives that, if convicted, the men will not face the death penalty. Although we have a "memorandum of understanding" with Rwanda, as we have with Libya and other reasonable states, Britain does not extradite suspects to countries where they might be executed, only to where they might be tortured; and, since Rwanda is not under US-led occupation, it is obvious that any executions there could not be considered an appropriately Rwandan process.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Bit of a Noose

The prime minister of the sovereign, independent Iraqi government has said that Saddam Hussein is to be strung up without delay. "Our respect for human rights means we must implement the execution," he said. "Whoever rejects Saddam's execution would be insulting the souls of the martyrs of Iraq."

There is, of course, a small moral dilemma here for the Coalition of the Enlightened. Is the use of the death penalty, not to mention that ominous talk of martyrs, yet another sign that the Iraqis are unworthy of our attempts to liberate them? Or is it, because the beneficiary is such a deserving case, a sign that our liberalising influence is at last beginning to work? Killing people in the name of human rights is, after all, the Coalition's very raison d'être. On the other hand, the British Foreign Office has contented itself with declaring that this particular act of human rights recognition is "an Iraqi process", which seems to indicate a certain disinclination as regards standing shoulder to shoulder with whoever has the pleasure of pulling the lever.

There is some speculation, apparently fostered by "a senior US official" and the American propaganda channel on Iraqi television, that the glorious event could happen as early as tomorrow; but an official from the Iraqi justice ministry said it was "none of the Americans' business" when the demonstration of respect for human rights would take place, particularly as Saddam Hussein, "although legally in Iraqi custody, ... is physically under US guard". There's the rub. If the Americans decide that their former friend and trading partner is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment - the kind of thing one expects of the Iranians, the North Koreans, the Venezuelans and world-threateners of similar stripe - then, no doubt, in the formidable face of Iraqi sovereignty, they will find themselves tragically unable to stop the unfortunate event. In those circumstances, I suppose, the only honourable course would be to up stakes and leave Iraq to its barbarity, whether the Iraqis liked it or not.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hazel Gets On Her High Horse

Hazel Blears, who only a month ago blathered so beautifully of opportunity creation, security enhancement and tough measures, appears to have undergone a spontaneous prioritisation realignment. Having decided, in the face of some possible inconvenience from the Boundary Commission, that "the people of Salford and Eccles come first", Blears is petitioning Patsy Hackitt, the Nurses' Friend, over the "reorganisation" (closure, in Standard English) of maternity services in the constituency. A strategic spokesbeing said that "current services are based on the needs of 30 years ago", when babies were brought by the stork, rather than being excreted in the more sophisticated fashion to which we have become accustomed in the twenty-first century. "In-patient hospital services", rather than their budgets, "are spread too thinly to provide the best care" and hence "There is strong evidence that better care can be delivered in fewer, larger, more specialised units" to which instant and utter access will be universally provided by Britain's dynamic, innovative and above all efficient transport systems. If only the Boundary Commission had the sense not to get in the way.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Won't Somebody Think of the School Leavers?

The Confabulation of Business Interests has warned that many teenagers are not equipped for working life, look scruffy and grunt. Obviously, this is not the sort of behaviour the CBI expects of teenagers, who by the time they leave school should have "communication, personal presentation, creative thinking, teamwork and reliability" cauterised into each of their cerebral lobes. Like so much else, this regrettable situation is the fault of the education system, which sometimes has other things on its collective mind than turning out highly disciplined squads of teenage salespersons or fostering the kind of "creativity" that will keep a focus group on message.

Nevertheless, the schools minister has "halted moves to embed 'personal, learning and thinking skills' within all GCSEs and A-levels", whatever that may mean. How, for example, does one embed "personal presentation" in a history lesson? "Now, children, this is Wat Tyler, who led a revolt of peasants against working conditions that were perfectly reasonable given the greater economic situation at the time. The probability is very high that he did not dress well, and we know that he had a habit of asking awkward questions about the distribution of wealth when Adam delved and Eve span. This sort of behaviour is not to be confused with communication, which will be covered when you learn how to write a proper sales report in your English lesson; and it certainly would not count as creative thinking, which you will hear more about when you learn Biology and Intelligent Design. No, children, Wat Tyler's behaviour is an example of unpreparedness for working life, the scourge and downfall of all real people..."

It is, of course, unlikely that such considerations (i.e. educational ones) had anything to do with the schools minister's decision not to carry out such embedding. Most likely the Cabinet simply concluded that God and a few ASBOs would sort things out in a year or two; or perhaps Tony's legacy will include a Compulsory Creativity Bill, just so the kids remember him as well.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

That 9/11 Connection At Last

According to Agencies, "officials said today that six more US soldiers had been killed in Iraq, pushing the American military death toll to at least 2,978 - five more than the number killed in the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States". A few lines down, confirmatory evidence is supplied: "The September 11 2001 attacks claimed 2,973 victims".

The inclusion of this mathematical factoid is puzzling for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the American military death toll in the 9/11 attacks was approximately zero, unless, as here, there were some "military civilians" among the victims. For another, the Iraq adventure has no connection with the 9/11 attacks. Iraq was invaded to save the world from weapons of mass destruction, then to topple Saddam Hussein, then to teach the natives about democracy and stuff, then to keep the war on terror going by the expensive but efficient expedient of ensuring a constant and growing supply of terrorists for the Coalition of the Enlightened to fight against.

Nevertheless, our leading liberal newspaper considers the mathematical factoid important enough to merit a subheading, giving it less significance only than fifty-five car bomb injuries and the readiness of Our Brave Boys. It outweighs, for example, "concern about how closely aligned some police units are with militias and death squads", which appears in a subordinate clause in a sentence in the eleventh paragraph about coalition forces helping the natives to understand their responsibilities. It certainly outweighs the concerns of the sovereign, independent Iraqi government about a couple of Iranians who are in the country at the president's invitation and who have been detained by the glorious liberators.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Humpbacked Robin

Bloated he struts; his beak flicks slickly down;
Department stores glow green in beady eye.
His feathers dead spikes, fallen-needle-brown,
He stabs the fattest worms, disdains to fly;
Seeking for slugs, he scorns to follow stars.
While angels glow and grin in coloured lights,
He croaks a carol at the packaged cars
Which bulge with budgets, brats, demands and fights.

He hops and capers to the gladdened bells:
Goodwill to men and profits by the peck!
Amid the bland lights and the garish yells,
He'll find the dove of peace and crack its neck.
The Good News blares and blinks (the Saviour's born!),
As, grubbing, he awaits the festive morn.

Phyto Baggle

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Kill an Elf for Christmas

Kill an elf for Christmas;
Blast him from the skies.
Pull his little wings off
And jab holly in his eyes.

Grab a passing Santa;
Jump upon his hat.
Vandalise his grotto
And squash his helpers flat.

Kill an elf for Christmas;
Don't cut down the firs.
They make efficient gallows
To hang the little curs.

Find some carol singers
All noisy and devout,
And pluck, with carefree fingers,
Their tongues and tonsils out.

Kill an elf for Christmas;
Exult in what you do.
If anyone reproaches,
You'd better kill them, too.

Kill an elf for Christmas;
Mow the pixies down.
Send the gnomes to glory,
And napalm Fairytown.

Eglantine Heap

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Great British Tradition

Only eighty-two per cent of those questioned in a Guardian/ICM poll say that they see religion as "a cause of division and tension between people" which, according to the Guardian's interpretation, "paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society". This seems a slight overstatement. Most of us who live in the real world see many things as causes of division and tension between people, including politics, sex, race, money, family life, driving, shopping, sport and public transport; but, possibly excepting the first and last, few people have too many doubts as to the social necessity of these various blessings.

Only seventeen per cent of people think Britain is best described as a Christian country, with sixty-two per cent subscribing to the bizarre opinion that Britain is better described as "a religious country of many faiths". Apparently sixty-two per cent of Britain's people have never looked at a British coin, on every one of which is depicted the head of the Church of England, monarch by the grace of God and defender of the faith. The Guardian claims this ignorance as a symptom of "Britain's generally tolerant attitude to religion", although it does not appear that anyone was asked whether, in their opinion, "a religious country of many faiths" is a Good Thing or not.

Most amusingly of all, a spokesbeing for the Chuch of England said that the "impression of secularism in this country is overrated", which doubtless explains the pressing need for faith schools, not to mention the Archbishop of Canterbury's warnings against the ways of the Heathen Chinee. Also, "it is more difficult to go to church now than it was" because "people work longer hours - it's harder to fit it in." That must be why churchgoing was so popular in the Middle Ages - working hours were shorter, so people could fit it in better.

According to the Guardian, "most people have no personal faith", with sixty-three per cent of those questioned saying they are not religious. Intriguingly, this figure includes "more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian", which constitutes encouraging evidence that the great British tradition of otiose hypocrisy shows little sign of fading.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Just the Facts, Please, Sir

That gifted entertainer, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has given his Christmas message to the public. There is good news and there is bad news.

The good news is that Sir Ian is "confident that I will not face any kind of misconduct in relation to Stockwell". Given the way in which the officer in charge at Stockwell was punished, this seems an eminently plausible prediction. As to Forest Gate, where the police raided a house in which no incriminating evidence was found and shot a man who had not committed any crime, Sir Ian denied that officers had got it wrong. "If we have credible intelligence from more than one source that a device is in a certain place we have to go in" and, depending on the results, it may also become necessary to smear the victim for paedophilia as well. Better safe than sorry, after all.

The bad news is that, despite the Vicar of Downing Street's pledges to introduce ID cards and replace Trident with something even nicer, we face "a far graver threat in terms of civilians than either the Cold War or the Second World War". The threat is also "a much graver threat than that posed by Irish Republican terrorism" and is also of an "unparalleled nature and growing" and is also "ever present". As one would expect of an ever-present threat, Christmas is "a period when [a terrorist attempt] might happen", just like every other day of the year. Sir Ian knows this because "we have no specific intelligence to do [with] that", which clearly settles the matter. Anyone too cunning for the Met, the scourge of Brian Haw and Maya Evans, must be a grave threat indeed.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

The altars are thrown down; the stones are gone
To build His holy walls and guard His light;
Cathedrals, oubliettes to blaze His might:
The many gods are swallowed by the One.
The celebration feasts of meat and wine
Are now the fodder of more sober folk;
The mistletoe an osculators' joke;
The nights diminished that the Son may shine.

Pity this sordid exit of the year:
Poor kidnapped feast, disfigured holiday,
Now tinsel-blinded 'mid the salesmen's bark
While prosperous and pious are astir.
The days will brighten, hot upon their play
While I deplore the shrinking of the dark.

Muskie Butsell

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blair at Glorious Leader Tips For Make Benefit Little Middle East People

Now that his much-vaunted efforts to exert a moderating influence on the Bush administration, in favour of engagement with Iran and withdrawal from Iraq, have proven the usual roaring success, the Vicar of Downing Street has been touring the Middle East, as he occasionally does, in the apparent hope that someone over there will mistake him for a statesman. As he occasionally does, too, his reverence called for an Axis of Moderate Muslimity - presumably composed of such paragons as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and his disarming new friends in Libya - to battle against the Islamic extremists who have done so much to set back the cause of private enterprise in Iraq. The Islamic extremists in question, of course, are none other than the new Great Satan, the government of Iran. The Iranian government, as everyone surely knows by now, are very bad men indeed. The whole sorry story of the past five years' interventions in the region, from the non-capture of Osama through the forty-five-minutes-to-doom claim to the Great Nigerian Yellowcake Chase and the fledgling civil war, would be transformed into an idyllic, edifying epic of pelting flowers and thriving humanitarianism, were it not for the Iranian government. Given time, no doubt, the Iranian government will be held responsible for 9/11 and the recent Ashes fiasco; for now, said his reverence, elements of the Iranian government are "openly supporting terrorism in Iraq", while his reverence helps the Bush administration flout the international community's desire for peace; "trying to turn out a democratic government in Lebanon" while his reverence supports terrorism in Lebanon; and "flouting the international community's desire for peace in Palestine" while his reverence and the Bush administration try to turn out the lawfully elected Hamas government. Yet, despite all these efforts to put the Middle East on the right track, "a large part of world opinion is frankly almost indifferent", possibly the same large part of world opinion which objected to the Iraq adventure from the start. "It would be bizarre if it weren't deadly serious," his reverence noted ruefully, almost as one who is not without honour.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Private Details

Well, here's a thing: the Minister of Unfitness for Purpose has decided that the Surveillance Makes You Free project, as currently conceived, is unfit for purpose. The original plan was to have an entirely new record system, "in order to avoid contamination from errors in existing database files on individuals"; but since, according to the Minister, "doing something sensible is not necessarily a U-turn", the information on the database will now be split between computers at the Department for Work and Pensions, the department of immigration, passports and virtually voluntary ID-cards, and the Department of Unfitness for Purpose itself. This is "lower risk, more efficient and faster", and in any case the scheme "will evolve over time" as the three separate departments each "adjust the details of this action plan as required by experience". Why bother trying to avoid errors when one can simply wait for them to happen and adjust matters accordingly?

The Minister said, again, that the scheme would help secure Britain's borders against people without ID cards; tackle illegal immigration by people who do not apply for ID cards; reduce fraud until someone learns how to forge ID cards; fight crime and terrorism by those terrorists and criminals who carry the correct ID cards; and improve protection for children at risk of being stopped in the street by police and ordered to produce their ID cards. As so often , the rightness of the scheme is placed beyond doubt by the wrongness of those who have misgivings about it: "No one who opposes introduction of identity management," proclaimed the Minister of Unfitness for Purpose, "can truly claim to treat these subjects as seriously as they claim to do."

A consultation paper will be published in the new year; and once any frivolous objections by those consulted have been appropriately ignored, sixty-nine regional identity management centres will be established across the country so that human resources can offer their "biometric and iris details" for low-risk, fast and efficient processing by one or other, or all three, of the computers involved, perhaps with some help from the private sector. In order to prevent hacking, none of the three parts of the database will not be connected to the internet; so, a few inevitable adjustment experiences aside, the details will be available only to those involved in securing Britain's borders, tackling illegal immigration, reducing fraud, fighting crime, protecting children or claiming to prevent terrorism. And to the private sector, of course.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Balancing Games

The president of the Royal Institute of British Architects has raised fears of a "tarmac and plasterboard" Olympiad in 2012. Of course this will never do. A British Olympics consisting of anything more substantial than scaffolding, hot air and police checks just wouldn't be British enough. The Secretary for Cultchah, Meedjah and Commentary Box Jingoism has attempted to assuage the architects' concerns by promising "a legacy" (ah, that word again) "of quality design". To facilitate this enviable upcomingness, "the Olympic Delivery Authority has been asked to come up with design competitions that will open up the games to national and international talent". If national talent doesn't suffice, perhaps we can get the Chinese to build our stadium for us. A further competition, aimed at schools in east London, will "encourage children to explain what sort of facilities would inspire them to take up mountain biking or BMX racing", to the inestimable engorgement of our national pride. The request for ideas for possible competitions for potential designs is motivated by "concerns that imaginative designs for the London 2012 venues and Olympic village would be jeopardised by attempts to control the budget". Perish the thought. The Secretary for Cultchah, Meedjah and Not Winning But Taking Part has said that "the government had to balance good design with getting facilities built within budget and on time". Since the taxpayers will be paying and private companies will be profiting, no doubt we can safely disregard the budgetary aspect; but given New Labour's various balancing acts (law against profit for arms dealers, public health against profit for pharmaceutical companies, species survival against profit for airlines, and so forth) it will be interesting to see which is the greater concern: how fast it all goes up, or how long it takes to fall down.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hutton's Hard Core

The Cabinet's very own job vacancy will be giving the Institute for Public Policy Research a lesson in logic tomorrow. To begin with, it appears that some Labour MPs are complaining that "the influx of eastern Europeans following EU expansion two years ago has undercut wages and cost jobs among British-born workers". Ministers say in private that "there is no evidence that recent rises in unemployment are directly linked to the arrival of eastern Europeans"; therefore, the vacancy will argue that "homegrown benefit claimants who are reluctant to work will be left behind by foreigners eager for jobs". It comes to something when Britons can be left behind by those who are not even competing with them.

The vacancy will note that, during the bad old days before New Labour came to power, the main cause of unemployment was, as might be expected, "lack of jobs"; however, given our present position "in the middle of the longest period of economic growth for hundreds of years", matters are no longer so simple. There are about 600,000 jobs available across the country, but "there are still 900,000 people on jobseekers' allowance, and more than two thirds of claims are made by people who have claimed before". It follows, then, that since there are 600,000 jobs and more than 600,000 benefits claimants, "there should be jobs for most of those who want them"; much as, given that two-thirds of the world's surface is water, nobody ever dies of thirst.

"Two thirds of claims are made by people who have claimed before": these, of course, are the real enemy, the long-term unemployed, whose only purpose in life is to lounge around the country making the Department of Work and Pensions Crisis look bad. Fortunately, it appears that there are about 600,000 of them, which seems a convenient solution to the problem of those 600,000 job vacancies now howling to be filled. Consequently, the Government plans to focus on a "hard core of 'can work but won't work' benefit claimants", who constitute an unspecified portion of some 72,000 people who have "spent six of the past seven years on benefits".

The Department of Work and Pensions Crisis also intends to "examine how getting more people into work could contribute to government targets to reduce child poverty" without raising wages, cutting the birth rate, providing child care or offending the CBI. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Death of Myron Frugalwise

The death of Myron Frugalwise
Is famed for globbisticity;
The engineer of his demise
Was fiendish in her icity.

Myron, a zealous curdlebone,
That very day had purged his grop;
Poor fellow, how could he have known
That ere the morn his skull would pop?

His prayers he said, and by the bed
His faithful urble squatted.
He lay at peace, his famous geese
At all the windows knotted.

Yvette had loved good Frugalwise,
But now she loathed him sorely;
For he had squinched her with his eyes
And barched into her borley.

She creply crupted through the clock
And uscularly fumbled
To find a match and light his sock;
But then the urble grumbled!

She froze; the urble gunked its welt;
And stumbified, suspicious.
Yvette at that dire moment felt
Less icitous than icious.

At last the urble hooped in sleep;
Its master had but thurked a little.
Yvette deployed a sharpened greep
The urble's ribcage for to whittle.

Into the grop of Frugalwise
The dread bedaster fittted;
She set the quorgles on his eyes
And from the chamber flitted.

The vile machine began to work;
Its quorgles reeked of flygall.
The victim's head became a murk
Of boddiflots and eyeball.

The grinding clunchers offed his nose;
His teeth dissolved in bruggy breath.
His lungs impaled upon his toes,
He could do nought but wait for death.

By noon, what had been Frugalwise
Was only globs of grunch,
Which blibbed before the butler's eyes
And made him lob his lunch.

And thus was Myron Frugalwise
Dispatched with globbisticity,
Because he had, with pludrous eyes,
So squinched a fiend of icity.

Gnubbley Bling

Friday, December 15, 2006

News 2020

Vice girl killer arms deal claim fury

The suspect on trial for the killing of seventeen prostitutes last year has sparked outrage by claiming to be no worse than an arms dealer.

The man, who cannot be named for copyright reasons, compared his activities to those of Lord Blair of Belmarsh's historical third-term government during its historical third term.

"There are times when the rule of law must be weighed against the national interest," he said, echoing the famous announcement by Lord Blair's attorney general, Simon Goldhandshake, that the then Prime Minister was without stain or taint of sin.

The suspect is accused of strangling seventeen female vice operatives over a period of several front pages and considerable expert psychological analysis. Police experts say that he should receive the maximum possible penalty as he would very likely have gone on to murder real women had he not been arrested.

However, the suspect claims that his motivation was to "make Britain safe for the law-abiding majority" by removing vice and drug addiction from the streets.

The leader of the opposition, Boris Johnson, today called on the Department of Virtue to curtail the suspect's "outrageous publicity-seeking comments".

The Minister for Judiciary Control, Penelope Pinochet-Bronson, responded that the suspect could not be gagged as he is not yet guilty of terrorist offences.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Satanic Supplement

Blight,n. A type of rot afflicting both vegetation and conurbation. Coincidentally, natives abroad use Blighty as an affectionate term for England.

Deferment,n. Procrastination with official approval.

Easy,adj.(Journalese) Any satirical target which deserves the criticism it receives and hence, for the sake of artistic purity, ought to be left to continue its abuses in peace.

Forbearance,n. The soil in which human relationships are rooted, and where the grubs of resentment are enabled to gnaw their fill, mature, and breed.

Humility,n. A quality much prized among those pious souls who believe themselves created in the image of a conscious power which made the entire universe, shares their moral code, and will one day exalt them unto eternity.

Inalienable,adj. Those rights of which no human being may be deprived except by appropriate Government action.

National Interest,n. One's own interest, sufficiently magnified and projected upon a screen sufficiently large to make manifest its unparalleled importance.

Punishment,n. A highly effective deterrent for any miscreant who plans on getting caught. The means whereby society revenges itself upon those responsible for its most entertaining news headlines.

Runge,n. Diarrhoea with a touch of mange.
Had his throat been wider or his fury less choking, he would have poured out his disgust in an endless stream; as it was, what emerged was poisonous but thin and unimpressive, a sort of verbal runge.
Mimbler Zipley

Sewer,n. Means of keeping ourselves healthy by transporting the waste products of human digestion away from our immediate vicinity - usually into the sea, which also helps to feed us. This sort of versatility in the use of his tools is what has got mankind into the enviable position he occupies today.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nothing to Say

The Secretary of State for Lesser Breeds has been out demonstrating once more her capacity for saying nothing in a selection of different but yummy ways. Listeners to BBC Radio's Today programme were treated, in succession, to:

The all-purpose non-actionable nothing: Ms Beckett says that "we need to reassess whether change is needed", a process which presumably happens all the time in any case. If a situation is changeable, one must keep reassessing one's response to it. If a situation is unchanging, one must keep reassessing whether it ought to be changed, and if so, what must be done to change it. Nevertheless, the Guardian or the Press Association attempts to squeeze some dynamism out of this non-statement by headlining it as "We need to reassess Iraq policy, says Beckett".

The auto-repeating safety nothing: Ms Beckett reminded her interviewer that "the Iraq Study Group says there is no magic formula." By golly, that is just what the Government has been saying all along: there is no magic formula. If there were a magic formula, we may be assured that it would have been used by now. But there isn't one. If any opponent of Government policy had suggested that there were one, this particular nothing might acquire the force of denial if not actual rebuttal; but since the only magic formulae on display have been such soporific spellbinders as stay the course, do the job, universal values, draw a line under it and everyone's favourite, freedom and democracy, this particular nothing remains a nothing.

The national pride nothing: George W Bush having delayed an announcement on Iraq, it is necessary to indicate that the British government is not waiting for him to speak before it falls into line. "There are and will be discussions in our government and we will come to our own conclusions". When we fall into line, we shall dashed well fall into line of our own accord.

The nobler-versus-nasty nothing: Ms Beckett called for "an intensification in the process of reconciliation". The process of reconciliation has not been intense enough to satisfy the British government, so the intensity of the process must be stepped up. This is noble. On the other hand, the actions of Iraq's neighbours, none of which has yet starved, bombed, invaded, irradiated, occupied or robbed the country, are having "catastrophic" consequences, chief among which, it appears, is the general disinclination towards intensification of reconciliation. This is nasty.

The assurance of nothing: Ms Beckett insisted that a strong, stable Iraq, perhaps like Saddam Hussein's Iraq used to be, was "absolutely possible" and that, as regards the country breaking up, "there is nothing in the present circumstances that says that has to be the outcome."

To summarise, then: despite the catastrophe being imposed by Iraq's neighbours and the deplorable lack of intensity in the reconciliation process, and in the absence of a magic formula, there is an absolute possibility of stabilisation. As if that were not enough, Ms Beckett is unable to detect, in the present circumstances, any definite statement that fragmentation of the country is a necessary outcome of the said circumstances. Hence the need for a reassessment of the need for change, during which we shall come to our own conclusions. Keeping the mouth shut may be a slightly more dignified way of saying nothing; but keeping the mouth shut won't get you a ministry.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Major Strategic Threat

The Vicar of Downing Street, who is complicit in the violent deaths of some six hundred and fifty thousand Iraqis and who this year condoned the Righteous State's not altogether stabilising rampage in Lebanon, has pronounced yet another anathema upon the true enemy of regional stability. Iran, which has attacked no other country in the entire history of its existence, is holding a conference for Holocaust deniers. Naturally, given his opinion of talk as opposed to violence, his reverence finds this "disgusting, unbelievable and shocking" and "a symbol of sectarianism and hatred towards a people" in a way that Israel's Fence of Fraternity clearly is not. The Iranian government, according to his reverence, is also "deliberately causing maximum problems for moderate governments" and, which amounts to the same thing, ourselves wherever we choose to interfere in the region. That is certainly too bad of them. Meanwhile, his reverence demonstrated once again the vaunted split between himself and George W Bush, who is not interested in negotiating with Iran and Syria: there is, said the doggie, "'little point' in including Iran and Syria in regional issues" pertaining to the region where Iran and Syria are located, "unless they are prepared to be constructive". Saddam Hussein was not prepared to be constructive, and look what happened to him. Unless Iran learns from his example, and stops whatever it is doing whether it is doing anything or not, it could well find itself being considered less than moderate by almost the entire Coalition of the Willing.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Home Front

The Minister of Unfitness for Purpose has been helping the public with its perspective again. "The threat in this country is very high indeed," he gibbered calmly. "It is at the second highest level", the highest level being even higher than very high indeed. "And that means that it is highly likely that there'll be a terrorist attempt", which has also been the case for the past several months. However, now that we are officially in the run-up to Christmas, the Minister of Unfitness for Purpose thinks it's about time we were reminded once again, just in case we were thinking of not panicking any more. "We know that the number of conspiracies of a major type are in the tens - 30 or round about that," he said, although he did not give details of any plots. They can count them, but they can't control them. While not a completely satisfactory situation, this is still better than the Ministry can manage when keeping track of its own staff: the National Audit Office has found that personnel records are "difficult to locate and some could not be found at all". The Ministry of National Alertness also "does not have adequate controls to reconcile the payroll and personnel records to determine exact staff numbers" and has "failed to manage its cash properly, which resulted in its being overdrawn by a quarter of a billion pounds". A spokesbeing for the Ministry of Muslim Control called this state of affairs a "significant step forward". Meanwhile, the Minister himself, who apparently has not been asked to state publicly his satisfaction with his department's progress, warned once more that the artist formerly known as the war on terror would go on for "longer than a generation". This is partly a matter of tradition: "the struggle against republican terrorism in Ireland and in the mainland ... lasted 30 years" and no-one has indicated to the Minister that the twin menaces of radical Islam and the famous Something None Of Us Are Thinking About At The Moment are going to be resolved any faster. Even British efficiency has its limits.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Talking the Talk

The Foreign Office has an Engaging with the Islamic World Unit. The Foreign Office's Engaging with the Islamic World Unit has requested ministers to avoid the phrase "war on terror", apparently because British Muslims and "the Islamic world" would prefer to be bombed, shot, irradiated, robbed, invaded and discriminated against under some less military rubric. According to the belief of Whitehall officials, "militants use a sense of war and crisis and a 'clash of civilisations' to recruit supporters", as when the Minister of Unfitness for Purpose talks of facing the most sustained period of severe threat since the Second World War. A spokesbeing for the Ministry for Lesser Breeds said that the Government wished to "avoid reinforcing and giving succour to the terrorists' narrative by using language that, taken out of context, could be counter-productive". Removed from its context of bombings, shootings, discrimination and so forth, the term "war on terror" clearly constitutes such an unfortunate use of language. Rather than using military terms, according to the spokesbeing, "we tend to emphasise upholding shared values as a means to counter terrorists"; values such as freedom, democracy, arms sales to Israel, and not wearing veils. This approach, as we are all well aware, has been working like a charm.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Singing Socks

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All for the Birds.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cohesive Integrativity, Promotive Communitality

Fortified, no doubt, by a doggy-bag from the White House, the Vicar of Downing Street is snapping at the heels of our own home-grown potential terrorists, particularly those who fail to dress in a manner deemed appropriate to the great national task of cultural integration. Public money, his reverence said, has been too easily handed out to organisations which are "tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities" because, as with New Labour's various other regrettable situations, "very good intentions got the better of us" and ruthless extremists took advantage.

His reverence noted that "it is not sensible to conduct this debate as if the only issue is the very hot and sensitive one of the veil", but nevertheless was unable to resist planting his healing boot on that hot and sensitive place. It is, in his reverence's view "a matter of plain common sense that when it is an essential part of someone's work to communicate directly with people, being able to see their face is important", as in radio broadcasting and all matters involving the telephone. His reverence also observed in passing that "the extremism we face is usually from men not women". His reverence's insight into the terrorist mind remains, it appears, as clear and profound as ever it was.

His reverence reassured the Daily Mail school of theological integration that "any introduction of Islamic sharia law in the UK" has no significant part upon the legacy agenda, and called on mosques which, like the Church of England, exclude the voice of women, to "look again at their practices".

His reverence noted that the 7 July bombings last year had thrown the idea of a multicultural Britain "into sharp relief". They must have been cultural bombings, not political ones. Still, even an idea in sharp relief can be celebrated, so long as the supremacy of Tony's "essential values" is admitted by the lesser breeds. We are, his reverence said, "a nation comfortable with the open world of today", hence our enviable record on civil liberties, human rights and international law.

From now on, in any case, "we will assess bids from groups of any ethnicity or any religious denomination, also against a test, where appropriate, of promoting community cohesion and integration." It will be intriguing to see the testing of the Church of England for integration of women and homosexuals, and of Tony's own white British community for promoting cohesion with its less favoured fellow citizens. But only where appropriate, of course.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tony's Cunning Plan

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour cuts a dynamic figure in today's edition. Under the thrusting headline, "Prime minister seizes chance for progress on Palestinian crisis", he deftly summarises the Downing Street press release in a forty-word leading paragraph before hustling together a further 444 words of what some people said yesterday and various extracts from the past few months. The press release part (that is, the story's news content) is as follows: Tony plans to take advantage of the Iraq Study Group's report in order to use his famous influence on George W Bush and "press [him] to be more positive towards the formation of a national unity government in Palestine involving Hamas". Since Hamas were inconsiderate enough to get themselves properly elected by, of all things, the Palestinian people, Bush has no interest whatever in dealing with them; but Tony will press him anyway.

Just what sort of pressure Tony will bring to bear is a matter of speculation, but some indication might be had from the joint response to the Iraq Study Group report. Bush said the ISG's recommendations were "worthy of serious recommendation", which is itself an endorsement meaningless enough to be worthy of the Vicar himself. Bush said that he and Tony would "stand together and defeat the extremists and radicals", and Tony agreed with him. Bush said that the Iraq debacle was part of a wider crusade by the forces of reasonability against extremists, and Tony agreed with him. Bush said he thought that Mission Accomplished in Iraq could be accomplished one more time for glory, and Tony agreed with him. Tony thanked Bush for his "clarity of vision" and said that the Iraq mission could and should be succeeded in. It is possible that Bush agreed with him.

This, of course, is Tony at his best, seizing chances for progress wherever they may be. It is precisely because the press conference looks like an episode of One Pan and his Dog that Patrick Wintour and his ilk are assured that Tony is "struggling to win Washington's support for an international peace conference to settle the Palestinian issue, and hopes the Iraq Study Group report published yesterday will give him his last chance to press the case". The frolicking, the gambolling, the chronic ankle-humping are all part of Tony's cunning Whole Middle East Plan. If Bush doesn't do as he is pressed to do, then mark my words, the consequences could be serious. Of course Tony will not withdraw British troops from Iraq (after all, the Iraqi government hasn't been told by Washington to ask him to) or refuse to continue acting as a base for part of the US nuclear arsenal and/or a stopover for arms shipments to the Righteous State; but he'll do something all right, even if it's just looking soulful and sticking his nose in master's crotch until the world is set to rights.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Very Modest Dose of Reality

Now that the nominee for US defence secretary has said it, Tony can say it too: the war in Iraq is not being won. Nevertheless, life in the bunker continues much as always. It is important that we go on doing exactly what we have been doing (or "go on to succeed in the mission that we have set ourselves"). Asked to confirm that future Iraq policy might be determined "by the British government and in the British national interest" for a change, Tony said that it was in the British interest to remove Saddam Hussein, who was not a threat to Britain. He also said that it was in the British interest to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the US after 9/11, an event in which Iraq played no part whatever.

The problem in Iraq, you see, is that "outside extremists are linking up with internal extremists in order to thwart the will of the Iraqi people", much as the British and US governments linked up with Saddam Hussein for a considerable period before August 1990. The will of the Iraqi people, as we all know, was "expressed in their election", and in the presence of a hundred thousand foreign fighters sent by a couple of external extremists; hence "in Iraq and Afghanistan it is important that we build the capability of those governments and those countries to withstand the terrorists and make sure democracy succeeds" in placing the correct people in charge.

A "process of reconciliation" is also important, since it is becoming plain even to the nominee for US defence secretary, and hence to Tony himself, that the number of Iraqis who have reconciled themselves to our plans for their country is something less than adequate. Tony also indicated his wish to "pursue what I call a policy for the whole of the Middle East ... starting with finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict" by helping to arm the Righteous State, meanwhile renewing Britain's share in the US nuclear arsenal while threatening Iran over its own small and possibly nonexistent deterrent. All this is what Tony considers to be an attempt "to put that region on a more stable footing".

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Healthy Spin

The Vicar of Downing Street, whose assurances on the subject of Iraq during 2002-2003 are still a rich source of mirth, has been applying his talents to the subject of NHS privatisation, asking "NHS managers and doctors", presumably in that order, to "make the case for further reforms and help convince people of the clinical arguments for A&E closures". The appeal comes in the wake of a leaked record of a meeting at which his reverence's health salesperson, Patsy Hackitt the Nurses' Friend, diagnosed the underlying problem with unerring New Labour instinct: the Government needs to be "smarter" in its advertising campaign. "Too often the debate on public service reforms seem to pitch the government against frontline staff," said the document, which was marked "restricted" in order to protect the public from this dangerous knowledge. Since there are, by the Guardian's count, fifty separate campaigns against "proposed or rumoured" reforms of NHS services across the country, the only possible explanation must be that the Government's public relations could do with improvement; hence, no doubt, today's attempt to recruit health service staff as advertising frontpersons. "The best is yet to come, with more lives saved, stopping more pain and distress," his reverence said, having heard somewhere that frontline staff are interested in that sort of thing. "If we fall down this time the consent for taxpayers funding the NHS will diminish," he continued. That would be calamitous, of course. If taxpayers no longer consented to fund the NHS, how could the Government ever, in good conscience, possibly continue to accept their money?

Monday, December 04, 2006

News 2020

New laws to enhance victim perspective

The Home Office has announced plans to introduce legislation to prevent abuse of victim testimony in court, the Home Office announced today.

The new measures will be designed to prevent victims utilising their in-court testimony in a manner "contrary to the public interest", said Home Office spokesman Mulcher Stobley.

After several high-profile cases, reported in the tabloids, of victims using their testimony to ask that courts be "merciful" or "understanding" towards convicted suspects, the Government is thought to be concerned to retain its reputation for prompt response to headlines.

In the most recent case, a 92-year-old woman whose mobile phone had been snatched on the street by a hooded youth of minoritous ethnicality told the court that she believed he had "suffered enough" and should be set free.

Prior to the trial, the youth had been interned for five years in the Hallibechtel Social Inclusiveness Facility on a remote Scottish island after two of the seventeen National Identity Databases agreed that he had almost the same name as a possible terrorist whom Lord Blair of Belmarsh had once suspected in a pub.

The case caused a national outcry, with the Daily Maul calling for tougher sentences to prevent mobile phone theft and the Sun calling for the youth and his victim to be locked up together and demanding that the woman refund her pension as "partial compensation for her bashing British justice".

Mr Stobley denied that the case had influenced the Government in its decision to introduce more legislation, but said that the new laws would "help the scales of British justice fall from the tearful eyes of genuinely weeping victims", rather than "acting as a soft option for suspects".

It is thought that the measures will include an option for judges to ignore victims if their testimony lacks the appropriate attitude, and possibly a scale of fines and other punishments for those found to be hindering the national aspiration to respect.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tough on Climes, Tough on the Causes of Climes

In the wake of the Stern report on climate change, and with 2006 set to be the hottest year in the last two centuries, the British government is, as one would expect, ordering the country's leading climate change research centre to cut its budget. The Met Office says it has been "asked" (or, in Standard English, told) to cut at least five million pounds over three years from sixty million it gets for "equipment for the main forecasting centre". The sixty million comes from the Ministry of Defence. There is also a possibility of cuts from another seventeen million which the centre receives from the War Office and Defra, the Department of Environmental Fragging, for the purposes of climate change research. The Ministry for Humanitarian Slaughter says that it has to make "efficiency savings" of 2.8 thousand million over three years, some of which might possibly help to pay for the Son of Trident boondoggle; but that "specific details, including Met Office funding, were not formally set". A spokesbeing for the Department of Environmental Fustian, Recalcitrance and Avoidance claimed there were "no 'plans' to cut Met Office funding", which of course is as good as saying that they expect half the staff to spend Christmas filling in job application forms. The Hadley Centre forecasting programme is "under review" and Defra is "'looking at ways to work more closely with' other UK research centres". Presumably, in the tradition of New Labour's merged police forces, Kentucky Fried Healthcare and the forthcoming national identity lottery, this means we can look forward to the institution of a single, profitable, gargantuan, cutting-edge, profitable research centre, financed by a tax on the use of tap water (henceforward to be monitored with detector vans by a specially-created green subsection of the Special Branch) and run in PFI partnership with BP, the nuclear industry and Ryanair.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Confidential Request

From: "SirLiamDonaldson"
Date: Sat Dec 2, 2006 2:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: confidential medical info

Dear GP

I am Sir Liam Donaldson. I am Chief Medical Officer of respected nation. I am inquiring you respectfully to help in small spinal matter of National NHS Database, one of many databases which to clearup life in our Great country Government has initialised. Database is completely confidential and private and Records will be safe.

National national healthservice database (Spine) must have Records for benevolence to spread. I am Chief Medical Officer of respected nation. Without Records is no Information without information all is Oldlabour chaos overspending terorist unilateral disarmament and Tories win. Without Records it is impposible to rule out Huge pandemics within next 45 minutes and millions Children dying of everything. Database is completely confidential and private and Records will be safe. pay No attention to misleading statements in Guraniad. Police and other agencies will not be permitted to examine medical records even if police say they need them to pervent the next 400 terrorist plots.

Therefore i am Asking you please to froward alll letters from noncooperating Patients please to the Department of Health so that they may receive full consideration. Noncooperating patients msut not be allowed to cause Huge pandemics within 45 minutes and millions Children drying of things. I am Sir Liam Donaldson. Noncooperating patients must be fullyu considered in accordance with Demands of national national health database which police and other agencies will Not be permitted. For preservation of civilised values rites of Confidentiality must not be utilised at the expense of national national Healthservice.

Thnak you for your cooperation. There will be plenty of time to discuss patients concerns with them before the Data is uploaded. I am Chief Medical Officer Your practise is on my list i wish you best wishes for your pratcice and also your Family.

Friday, December 01, 2006

News 2020

Olympic stadium racing to completion, say contractors

The stadium for the 2012 London Olympics could be fully built and operational in as little as fifteen years provided appropriate resources are forthcoming, according to Fast Practices Inc., the firm responsible for the stadium's completion.

Anti-sporting pressure groups have already registered their objections to the plans, saying that the money would be better spent on prisons, faith schools or very small, suicide-bomber-sensitive nuclear deterrents.

Despite the protests, however, the Government has said it will continue to provide funding for the stadium's completion.

"After trying so hard for all these years, it would be unthinkable to simply cut and run," said culture minister Victoria Beckham last night.

"The 2012 Olympics were an integral component of Lord Blair of Belmarsh's legacy to the cause of human brotherhood through sports commentary. We cannot simply brush that legacy aside," she said.

Since the 2012 London Olympics took place in 2012, in London, work on the stadium has been halted twice by floods from the Thames and once by floods from London's sewage pipes, which resulted in the formation of Lake Victim-of-Casual-Crime.

However, Ms Beckham denied that continuation of the building would be a waste of time, as "the possibility of future olympically-oriented utilisations cannot be ruled out".

The 2012 London Olympics would remain a "proud moment for all Britons capable of passing an elementary citizenship test," she said.

Britain won record numbers of medals at the London Olympics in 2012, beating even the Americans, who withdrew halfway through the games in case of terrorist attack.

The Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport has dismissed as "conspiracy theories" claims that British athletes were able to do better than usual because most of the facilities had not been built.