The Curmudgeon

YOU'LL COME FOR THE CURSES. YOU'LL STAY FOR THE MUDGEONRY.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Some of Your Blood

Dracula's Metafictional Mirror

This piece is partly concerned with the twist ending of Theodore Sturgeon's Some of Your Blood. If you don't want to know how it ends, don't read this.

Most readers of Theodore Sturgeon's masterpiece will have noticed that Some of Your Blood shares its epistolary format with Bram Stoker's Dracula; but the relationship between the two books goes considerably further than that. In various aspects of its plot and characterisation, the later novel both resembles and reverses its predecessor; and the prologue and epilogue of Some of Your Blood provide a remarkable and disturbing frame for the vampire's mirror image.

Both novels are contemporary in setting, and both (with a significant exception to be considered later) emphasise their up-to-date realism: Dracula with modern technology like Dr Seward's phonograph, Some of Your Blood with its focus on modern psychiatric techniques such as the Rorschach test, and both with their documentary narratives telling the story purportedly via primary sources.

George Smith's real first name is Béla, which presumably means his forebears were Hungarian. Although Smith writes only that his parents came from "the old country", Transylvania has a large Hungarian minority which includes Székely, the ethnic group to which Stoker's count was proud to belong. During Jonathan Harker's visit to his castle, Dracula uses their conversations to improve his English pronunciation so that he can blend in better with the natives when he emigrates; Smith, the son of immigrants, is initially bullied by other children because of his "honky talk", but quickly learns to speak American English like everyone else.

Van Helsing compares Dracula to a habitual criminal, intelligent but psychologically handicapped by a combination of ignorance and inflexibility: "This criminal has not full man brain. He is clever and cunning and resourceful, but he be not of man stature as to brain. He be of child brain in much." Dr Outerbridge and Lucy Quigley both diagnose Smith's emotional state as being "arrested at the lowest levels of infancy", in spite of his full physical development and the high level of native intelligence and verbal ability indicated by his autobiography.

The inversions are as neat as the parallels. Dracula is wealthy, aristocratic, ancient and supernatural; Smith is poor, common, youthful and non-supernatural. In life, Dracula was a successful and ruthless military leader; Smith joins the army as an enlisted soldier and is traumatised at the sight of casualties - though not, as later becomes clear, because he is particularly squeamish about violent death. While Dracula's blood-lust is for women, Smith's is less discriminating. He does use his girlfriend Anna as a source of blood, but he also uses a young boy, an alcoholic watchman and a wide variety of animals.

Dracula is structured as a thriller: the Count's evil nature becomes clear to Jonathan Harker in the opening chapters, and most of the story consists of move and counter-move between clearly-defined opponents, climaxing in a chase and unequivocal victory for the forces of Christian virtue. Some of Your Blood is structured as a "fair-play" detective story whose clues are embedded in Smith's tour de force of an autobiography. It starts with Smith in captivity, so there is no climactic chase; and for much of the story there is some doubt as to whether Smith has in fact done anything worse than accidentally strike an officer. Colonel Williams, who transfers Smith to Outerbridge's clinic so that he can be diagnosed and discharged as quickly and quietly as possible, believes that Smith's "dangerous, violent" classification derives from the vindictiveness of a major whom Smith punched during a scuffle. Smith's autobiography convinces Williams that Smith's "only sickness is scar tissue from a regrettable childhood" and that he has "placed sex in a genuinely wholesome perspective", and most first-time readers would probably agree. More sensitive than Williams to the peculiarities and omissions in Smith's narrative, Outerbridge is able to retain his focus on the basic problem of the case, the motive behind Smith's hunting.

Dracula has no omniscient narrator, and the journals, letters and memoranda and their authors are indicated with plain headings: "Jonathan Harker's Journal", "Dr Seward's Diary" and so forth. Some of Your Blood has a narrator who provides the prologue and epilogue, and who also continually appears between the documents in the story, identifying them with headings such as "Here is a letter" and "Here is the answer" or simply "A letter". The narrator also provides explanations of the psychological tests which Outerbridge uses on Smith, and at one point intercedes to remind the reader of the doctor's situation "on the struggling staff of an overcrowded, underequipped military neuro-psychiatric hospital" during the time when he was treating Smith. The narrator's voice is one of the most intriguing features of Some of Your Blood, not least because it begins by telling us to disbelieve what we are reading.

Some of Your Blood starts with an assertion that its characters and events are fictitious. Paradoxically, the denial of realism is couched in solidly realistic terms: the reader cannot simply float above the action and observe events, and is not merely told to imagine this or that, but instead receives detailed instructions to use a key, climb a flight of stairs, turn left for the study, open a drawer and take out the file containing the records of Smith's case. The reason all this is possible: "you are The Reader, and this is fiction. ... You're quite safe."

This reassurance, and the next (and last) sentence of the prologue, "It is, it is, it really is fiction..." provide a blatantly false sense of security. Why does it matter so much that what we are about to read is fiction, like the Dr Outerbridge whose own non-existence will prevent his objecting to our burglary of his study? If what we are about to read really is only a story, then why such emphatic repetition? The epilogue continues in the same vein, repeating that Outerbridge "exists only for you, The Reader" and proclaiming that "this is and must be fiction". The "must be" is ambiguous; it could mean that the story is inherently implausible, even impossible, or it could mean that the story is so horrifying that the possibility of its truth cannot be admitted.

This is rather more complex than Stoker's double-bluff at the end of Dracula, where Jonathan Harker notes both the story's implausibility and the unreliability of the written record: "in all the mass of material of which the record is composed, there is hardly one authentic document. ... We could hardly ask any one, even did we wish to, to accept these as proofs of so wild a story." Harker quotes Van Helsing's "We ask none to believe us", but the narrator's voice in Some of Your Blood goes further and actively solicits our disbelief. Indeed, as noted above, in places it seems almost to beg for it. If confined to the prologue, all this might be seen as an authorial trick to gain our attention, a subtler variant on the "Proceed at your own risk" prologue which is the thrill-seeker's welcome-mat; but if that were the case there would be little purpose in reiterating the trick in the epilogue.

Besides stating that the story is and must be fiction, the epilogue invites the reader to take advantage of this fact by offering several alternative endings from which to choose. More precisely, it offers several alternative endings for George Smith, once Outerbridge and Lucy Quigley have been efficiently consigned to a happy and productive marriage. Regarding Smith, the reader is first told that he was treated and cured, married Anna and inherited his aunt's farm, where he continues to live quietly and harmlessly. Then again, "if the idea of such as George still offends you, why it's the easiest thing in the world to have therapy fail and we'll wall him up forever"; and if even this does not suffice, he could be killed off in a riot or an escape attempt. The reader is even offered a choice of where he could be shot, based on Smith's own observation that in Western films, "if the good guy gets shot it's always in the chest or shoulder and if the bad guy gets shot it's always in the belly".

A shot to the chest would mark Smith as a tragic hero, a shot to the belly would mark him as a bad guy; but morally speaking Some of Your Blood is a somewhat trickier proposition than either the traditional Western or the traditional vampire story. The narrator's mention of the belly connotes Anna's nickname for Smith, which is both a distortion of his real first name and an unwitting insight into his view of their relationship: as deduced by Lucy Quigley, "Rabbits and squirrels and little boys and old watchmen - each one is a mamma, full of warm sustaining fluid." In offering us the choice of having Smith shot in the belly, the narrator reminds us both of Anna's devotion to him and of the fact that his crimes derive from the appetites of a literally infantile part of his psyche. By implication, to want Smith shot in the belly is to want the shooting of a child, and a beloved child at that.

This ethical bait-and-switch is followed by the book's final paragraph: "But you'd better put the file back and clear out. If Dr Outerbridge suddenly returns you'll have to admit he's real, and then all of this is. And that wouldn't do, would it?" This makes clear the reason behind the neurotic tone of those earlier reassurances: the case of George Smith may be fiction, but - unlike a fiction about a supernatural vampire - it could be real. Poverty and deprivation; drunken husbands and battered wives; children whose home lives are so miserable that they can find relief in prison and the military; men who commit horrible crimes for reasons they themselves cannot understand: everything in the story could have happened and is always happening. It may be denied (it really is fiction) or dressed up as entertainment (you are the reader and it is your privilege); but manifestly it will not do.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Healthy Enterprise

A health profiteering company has been caught using Duncan Smith tactics in its advertising. The catchily-named Bestmedicalcover, based in the British Virgin Islands tax haven, is so sure of its own virtues that its best hope of selling insurance was to lie about the NHS. The company's advertisement cited Sir Bruce Keogh's report to the effect that 13,000 people had died needlessly on the NHS as a result of negligence, and added that private insurance could "provide peace of mind" and "quite literally save your life". There was a minor problem; namely that the quoted figure does not appear in Keogh's report, which explicitly said that any attempt to provide such statistics would be misleading. Jeremy C Hunt has denied all responsibility, and the Advertising Standards Authority has given Britishmedicalcover a bit of a dressing down; which doubtless means that, in the event of a Daveybloke majority in 2015, Hunt will be promoted, Bestmedicalcover will get a contract and the ASA will be abolished.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Winning Isn't Everything, You Know

Much as the Cabinet's millionaires have lectured the proles over the latter's undue attachment to material things, so the greenest government ever has decided that one can, after all, be too green for one's own good; because, after all, the Bullingdon Club won't be the ones who drown. Daveybloke's chum next door has shrugged off the issue of climate change in favour of "the cheapest energy possible", which apparently is what Centrica and its cronies are providing us with on Planet Osborne. The smirking schoolboy also expressed concern that Labour's rather timid measures would turn British aluminium smelters into immigrants; and, remarkably enough, he dropped the hint of a doubt as to whether the troubles of those who became unemployed as a result would be significantly mitigated by the impact of Universal Credit. The policy suggested by the greenest government ever, as one might expect, is to reduce yet further the obligations which the energy cartel has towards its captive market, and to stop building windfarms. It seems that the global race so often invoked by Britain's Head Boy is the sort of game at which even the British can sometimes lose gracefully, at least as far as championship husky-hugging is concerned.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Better Part of Valour

The deplorable dearth of proper wars since the Crusade Against Terror reached its glorious drawdown has prompted the Ministry for War and the Colonies to consider new strategies against that cunning and perennial enemy, democratic accountability. A discussion paper, issued by a post-Werritty think-halftrack during last Remembrance Sunday month, suggests countering public reservations through saturation propaganda bombing ("a clear and constant information campaign") while at the same time reducing the publicity given to bringing home the bodies. The paper also suggests using more "contractorised forces" (mercenaries, in Oldspeak), apparently on the grounds that the families and loved ones of privatised casualties tend towards a more acceptable, second-order style of grief. Of course, a spokesbeing was deployed to proclaim that it's all just a suggestion intended purely to provoke a mature debate; but it does appear that the armed forces are finally catching up with Blairite strategic thinking, in accordance with that fine old British tradition of arming today for yesterday's battles.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Not Like the Good Old Days

In headier days, Westminster's Conservative council gained a certain notoriety through being run by a supermarket heiress and thieving psychopath who ran a gerrymandering scheme involving social cleansing and the sale of public housing. The present incumbents have attempted to continue this honourable tradition in a more strictly legal fashion, by trying to cut a blind man's social security payments under the provisions of the bedroom tax. Being a barrister, the shirker in question argued that the room in question was not, and never had been, used as a bedroom, and the judge had the temerity to rule in favour of the ordinary English meaning of the word rather than the spirit of Iain Duncan Smith. The council blamed the man's landlord and didn't even bother to attend the hearing; but the Department of Workfare and Privation has said that it may appeal, presumably once the brilliant Duncan Smith has passed an emergency law retroactively defining a bedroom as any room which can be conveniently utilised as an excuse for kicking the disabled.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has courted the ire of the Conservative Party chair and wit Grant Shapps by defending a Brazilian special rapporteur and foreigner. Raquel Rolnik, it may be recalled, provoked the righteous wrath of the Murdoch-Dacre Self-Regulation Squad by criticising the Government's war on the poor. According to an aide of the UN high commissioner for human rights, Rolnik broke no rules and operated within the UN's code of conduct; which of course is just the sort of behaviour that leads to Saddam Hussein. Worse yet, Rolnik's visit was "planned and organised over many months in consultation with the government and in compliance with rules and procedures". Grant Shapps, however, says otherwise; which probably tells us all we need to know about the truth of the matter.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tentatively Hinting at Something More or Less Different Enough to Appear Not Quite Exactly the Same

The Health Service looks a bit peaky!
The A and E industry's leaky!
We'll stop the fast-track,
And work our way back
To privatising slow and sneaky!

We will not play on public fears
As Tories have done all these years!
We will not be patsies
Like all those poor Nazis
Duped into their crimes by the queers!

The needy need no longer cower!
Concern in our bosoms will flower
And blossom and bloom
And blather and boom -
Just till you vote us into power!

Connie Labb

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Playing God

We writers of horror can best old Jehovah
At keeping a rational attitude:
We harm our creations - but when it's all over,
We rarely solicit their gratitude.

Samuel Grimsnipe

Monday, September 23, 2013

Global Junior Prefect Steps In

Some Islamic terrorists have attacked a shopping centre in Nairobi, presumably not in retaliation for Kenya's recent attack on Somalia. While we wait for the Reverend Blair to update us on the subtleties, Britain's Head Boy has called a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee. Of course, much of the Conservative Party thinks that Kenya is still part of the Empire, but our puce-visaged Baby Churchill probably has a more pragmatic motive: the Labour Party conference has just started, and Daveybloke still blames the Milibeing's timid objections for depriving him of the chance to inflict a bit of collateral damage on Syria. Anyway, he had a bit of a burble about how absolutely sickening and despicable it is to kill civilians when one has to do it face to face rather than at the push of a button, and threw in a bit of a blather about theological semantics while he was at it. Those who claim to commit acts of terror in the name of a religion are, it appears, deluded: "They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world". That's what makes them so much more sickening and despicable than white, Western, quasi-Anglican, radical right-wing wog-bombers.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

If You Can't Flog It Off, Chop It Down

An appeal against the destruction of an ancient Kent woodland has been thrown out by a judge in a ten-minute hearing. The local Deputy Conservative candidate, who appears to be suffering either from belated opportunism or from poignant ignorance of the government to which his party belongs, has been prominent among the protests. He alleges that Eric Pickles, of all the Nice Party people in the world, refused to bother looking at the wood (in fairness, appreciation of natural beauty is probably among the many human eccentricities to which the Pickles sensibility is immune) and swore at another campaigner. This has been denied both by Pickles himself and by a source close to Pickles; which undoubtedly settles the matter. Meanwhile Gallagher Aggregates, the company which wants to turn the woodland into a granite quarry, has said it will apply for costs in a legal case against Pickles for ignoring an EU directive on bird conservation and for failing to show that the economic benefits of the quarrying would be sufficient to justify the destruction of the wood. Since the plaintiff is not a hard-working family after the Cameron, Clegg or Osborne model, she has been forced to withdraw her case; such are the legal protections for the countryside under the greenest government ever.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

In Like Flint

Having announced operating profits of up to fourteen per cent, the energy cartel is naturally plotting a price hike of about eight per cent, although delicacy forbids a formal announcement until after the political parties have finished their various blatherfests. The cartel apparently intends to blame the rise on environmental levies, which could reduce poor Centrica's profits still further from the present pittance of £2,740 million. The shadow energy and climate change secretary, who has been rather justifiably quiet since her eminently sane stint in government, has been fulminating against Britain's Head Boy for doing what Labour would have done, viz. nothing. In the face of such overwhelming force of argument, it is just about possible that Ed Davey (not to be confused with Ed or Davey), the Deputy Conservative doormat at the relevant department, will take the coalition's customary firm and decisive action by doing a bit of urging.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Corrosive Effects

That eminent social scientist, Nick Clegg, has been profundifying about the "corrosive effect" of violent video games. As is customary in such matters when Muslims are not involved, the recent shooting in Washington DC has been blamed on the culprit's computer game habit. Self-evidently, then, Grand Theft Auto and its ilk have a far more significant and detrimental effect on modern life than poverty, inequality, social cleansing, cuts to public services and all the other little delights at which Wee Nicky and his party have been conniving these three years. Video games, you see, "occupy a hermetically sealed world of their own", quite unlike the atmosphere at Westminster, where all is openness and the clear light of day; although it is regrettably unclear how the proportion of violent criminals among computer game players compares with the proportion of liars, frauds and wog-bombers among the friends and colleagues of Nick Clegg.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Jolly Big Boat

Since comments are free and facts sacred, Britain's leading liberal newspaper has put out a thousand-word puff piece about how jolly big the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier is going to be. The carrier, which is called HMS Queen Elizabeth and is jolly big, is almost three hundred metres long, which makes it slightly smaller than the Americans' biggest aircraft carrier, the island of Great Britain. The Queen Elizabeth's diminutively-surnamed captain, Simon Petitt, believes that being jolly big is an important thing in a ship, because there is a lot of symbolism in modern warfare, and the Queen Elizabeth will be "massively visible" and thus all the more effective, rather like the Twin Towers. Petitt cited Nelson at Cadiz and the battleships of the early twentieth century, which did so much to shorten the First World War at Jutland and the Dardanelles. It is unclear whether Petitt believes the army should send its troops into battle wearing bright red coats, as happened in days of yore; but perhaps mere troops are not jolly big enough for such radical innovations.

The Queen Elizabeth will have nine hunded computer terminals, some of which may be working by the time the ship launches in six, seven or possibly more years' time. The Queen Elizabeth will be able to generate enough electricity to power five and a half thousand more homes than the Government plans to build in order to house those space-guzzling proles who have been displaced by the bedroom tax. The Queen Elizabeth is so jolly big that its propellers weigh thirty-three tonnes each, and its construction has helped to provide employment for ten thousand people; but in compensation the ship, which is jolly big, has been automated to an unprecedented degree. "Our old ships were people-heavy to make them safe," shrugged Petitt, dismissing this peculiar prehistoric motivation. Among other things, the moving of missiles and other instruments of wog chastisement from the armoury to the aircraft will be the responsibility of a machine, with the potential for human error being reduced to the chance that the fins might be stuck on the wrong way round.

The aircraft themselves may possibly be ready by the time the carrier puts to sea, although successive governments have had trouble making up their minds. Originally the idea was for the carrier to carry the "carrier" version of the F-35 fighter, presumably because the clue was in the inverted commas. Now, however, the carrier will carry a different version, apparently because it is "less capable" so that post-Werritty defence ministers are not unduly intimidated. It is also possible that, at a later date, the ship may be equipped to carry drones, just in case some people remain undeterred by how jolly big it really is.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pissed, Yet Profitable

The idea that public order is the responsibility of the police may soon be relegated to the same dustbin of history as the idea that public health is the responsibility of the Health Minister. A couple of chief police officers are agitating for the business of picking up drunks to be privatised. The Humberside police commissioner, being a Conservative, went straight for the fear-button: "One day we're probably going to have someone dying of a heart attack on the side of the road because we're dealing with a drunk." Evidently the Humberside police commissioner has great respect for his subordinates' ability to prioritise their workload. The Northamptonshire chief constable admitted that the police were not health experts, and proclaimed that this was a good reason to place certain malefactors in the hands of profiteers. Instead of wasting valuable cell space, the taxpayer could sponsor some company with experience in crime, like Serco or G4S, to run a holding tank where the inebriated could be locked up for the night. Once sobriety had been determined by an examination of ability to pay, a penalty could be administered and the company could charge the miscreant for the accommodation. The idea has been endorsed by Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, who said that inebriated people needed to be checked every fifteen to thirty minutes, "and when one of these people tragically dies, the service is quite rightly criticised." By contrast, if a drunk dies while in the hands of a private company, probably under the expert eye of some luckless workfarer on a six-week "trainee" contract, the inconvenience is far less.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reaching Out to the White Working Class

Having nothing better to do these days, Britain's Head Boy has weighed into a tortured debate about whether football fans should be allowed to refer to themselves by an offensive epithet. The FA, presumably with the volatility of crowds uppermost in mind, has banned the use of the word Yid at football grounds in any context; Daveybloke, doubtless with the volatility of his UKIP wing uppermost in mind, has had a bit of a burble in the Jewish Chronicle, throwing in a bit of Latin because one of the servants remembered to tell him it wouldn't be quite like talking to the Sun. Daveybloke, of course, is famous for what the Free Press calls his robust sense of humour, which means he sniggers at women and uses "Tourette's" as an insult; and he recently had to hold off bombing some sand-wogs thanks in part to the non-Aryan appeaser who leads the opposition. "Hate speech should be prosecuted," Daveybloke burbled, "but only when it's motivated by hate," as presumably with terms such as shirker and immigrant.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Radical Progressive Responsible Centralism, With A Yellow Streak

In terms of achievement, you'll find,
Our party's not fallen behind:
So vast, so progressive,
And far too impressive
To be called, at this moment, to mind.

We're awfully close to the edge!
We can't hesitate now, or hedge!
No fall-outs, no faction!
It's time to take action -
Oh look! Cleggy's made a new pledge!

We've made quite a forwardish jump,
So let us get out on the stump!
Just wait, and you'll see:
Remember Eastleigh,
And build on this glorious rump!

Mel Dib

Sunday, September 15, 2013

International Aid

Since the Osbornomic recovery, such as it is, will necessarily take place in the centre of the world (Westminster) and its immediate outlying regions (London and the Home Counties), it seems only fair that the rest of the country should muck in and make a contribution. Kit Malthouse, a deputy of the London Haystack and chair of the capital's promotional board, has proclaimed that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should throw money at London if they want to attract more tourists, because nobody comes to Britain except to see London anyway. In return, London would drop a hint or two to the tourists about toddling over to Cardiff or Belfast or Edinburgh for a bit, because a Conservative-run London would never want them to spend all their money in the one Conservative-run place. According to Kit Malthouse, this means that everybody wins; although happily the real world has obtruded itself far enough that he expects resistance from the recalcitrant Celts.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Cause of Most Oil Pollution in the Niger Delta

Another oil company is being persecuted by locals over a little mistake that could happen to anyone. In 2008, Shell's trans-Niger pipeline burst twice within a few months, and eleven thousand fishermen lost their livelihoods; although, on the positive side, Shell remains the largest firm on the London stock exchange. As befits mere Nigerians, the original compensation offer was £4000 for the entire community; this was later raised to thirty million, or about £11,000 for each affected non-shareholder. This amounts to two or three years' earnings; which is remarkably generous considering that the affected area has already been ruined for five and may take a quarter of a century to recover; nevertheless, the natives remain restless and the matter is now likely to be settled in court. Shell has said that it will condescend to start cleaning up the mess once local communities stop interfering, and has issued a stern call for "the cessation of oil theft and illegal refining in the area, which reimpacts the environment and remains the cause of most oil pollution in the Niger delta", the impact of the burst pipeline being apparently negligible. When the oil companies are eventually allowed to exploit Ecuador's Yasuní national park, it is to be hoped that the natives will show a bit more responsibility.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Political Is the Personal

In their coarse, playground-taunting way, the chaps at the Home Office have always been fairly accomplished comedians; but they may possibly have surpassed themselves here. The Powellite Pantechnicon campaign, in which vans displaying a wogs-go-home message were driven around racially mixed areas, has attracted unwelcome attention from the sort of wog that begins at Calais. A designer named Fabien Delage claims that his font was used without permission or payment and, predictably, has expressed some annoyance at being associated with so uncompromising an instance of British pluck and gumption. The font, appropriately called Plane Crash, is free for personal use but requires a license and explicit permission for commercial use; so given that the Conservatives consider the country their own little toy, the defence will presumably be that the Powellite Pantechnicon campaign was as personal as anyone might wish.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Waste Ground

Still smarting from its failure to sell off Britain's forests, the greenest government ever is plotting to concrete over the country's national parks. Nick Boles, who warned earlier this year that the approaching property bubble would mean building on any ground which the Department of Badger-Busting considered "environmentally uninteresting", has returned with yet more dire predictions. It appears that some rural communities are in danger of becoming "embalmed"; in other words, preserved from the ravages of time. This sort of thing is not looked upon with favour by the modernised Conservative Party, whose ideals for twenty-first-century Britain incorporate Victorian sanctimony, Regency corruption and Imperial foreign policy. Nick Boles is concerned that, without a few supermarkets, office blocks and car parks, the unfortunate communities will become as empty and lifeless as the deserted, depressing wasteland that is Yosemite National Park.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Help, Help, I'm Being Repressed

Will the persecution never cease? Not a fortnight has elapsed since the Bullingdon Club was prevented from bombing little Syria to safety, and now a United Nations investigator - a foreigner with a foreign-sounding job title, and a woman, if you please - has been passing remarks about the bedroom tax, or the spare room subsidy reform as our benefactors concisely call it. When the prime minister of Food Bank Britain and junior arms salesman of the year by appointment to the King of Bahrain suddenly became concerned over the demise of a few low-income-bracket Muslims, some people were sceptical and were duly denounced as appeasers and Assad-lickers. In the present case Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party wideboy whose intelligence and honesty are such that he was thought a fitting replacement for Sayeeda Warsi, has gone squealing to Ban Ki-Moon, demanding that the investigator be investigated and that her remarks be withdrawn, preferably before the proposed investigation decides whether they were justified or not. Shapps' squeal, which we can only hope he addressed to Mr Ban rather than Mr Moon, was apparently crayoned onto Conservative Party paper rather than Government paper, which suggests either that the Government is unsure of its case or, more likely, that Shapps believes the Government is the same thing as the Conservative Party.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Toytown

The empty suit in charge of the Ministry for Wog-Bombing has been having a bit of fun to compensate for Parliament's recent interference in the Great Game. The biennial arms bazaar has opened in London's Docklands, and Liam Werritty's successor Philip Hammond proclaimed it a "fabulous show" displaying "fantastic kit". Official guests included the governments of Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, where Britain's recent interventions have done so much to increase the fabulous opportunities for really assertive peacekeeping. Other favoured clients, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were also present, their purchases doubtless confined to the merchandise with the Not for Internal Repression label.

While Philip Hammond was praising the show in the statesmanlike terms one might expect from a middle-aged corporate drone discussing Spearmint Rhino, the head of the Royal Navy was bragging about how much his business costs the country. Sir George Zambellas regurgitated Daveybloke's wog-stomping blather about the small island with a "big footprint across the world", and rejoiced in the thought that the navy would soon account for nearly half of Britain's entire defence procurement programme. The navy's two new aircraft carriers - oversized, expensive, lacking in aircraft to carry and of rather doubtful defensive value in the present century - would, Zambellas said, become national icons. He might just be right about that.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Wahrheit Macht Frei

Paradisiac fields, and under the lawn
the dark dead.
Shading heavenly lamps, membranes torn
from dark wings.
Outside heavenly gates, broken horns
from dark heads.
Praises light up the camps; beyond, where dark clings,
devils mourn.

Æthelwulf Oakman

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Selling His Grandmother at a Reasonable Rate

Twizzler Lansley's former flunkey at the Department for Health Profiteering, Paul Burstow, claims to have uncovered a national scandal: hundreds of thousands of older people are being abused in their own homes by carers or relatives. These figures take no account of those left to the tender mercies of Southern Cross and its ilk, so the true number may be somewhat higher. Rather than doing anything heretical, such as providing better resources to relieve stress on carers and prevent vulnerable people being trapped in their homes, Burstow suggests turning social workers into policemen and changing the law so that homes will be easier to invade. He also wants new offences of neglect and corporate neglect to be put on the statute books, which Daveybloke will doubtless welcome as an opportunity to outlaw Work Capability Assessment appeals and bolshie nurses, respectively. Burstow will be meeting Britain's Head Boy to discuss how best to profit from the crisis; judging by the ideas he has already put forward, he probably has a fair chance of a new fagging assignment the next time Daveybloke sacks a Deputy Conservative.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Not Working Enough

Under the directorship of the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith, the Department for Workfare and Punishment has been making work pay; it follows, therefore, that anyone in a job which does not pay enough is a semi-scrounger. As part of the ever more simple Universal Credit programme, the DWP plans to classify a million people as "not working enough" and haul them before the inquisition at their local job centre, where their working habits will be subject to examination and correction. Should the staff - whose IT systems and other little luxuries may or may not be working enough - decide that extra training is necessary, the semi-scroungers will be forced to cancel that extra holiday and put the mansion in mothballs so that a private company can give them a pep talk and some CV-building tips.

Meanwhile, the DWP's rhetoric is certainly a striver not a shirker: amid Blairite babbling about "claimant journeys" where employment is "just the first step" comes the megalomaniac proclamation that "moving to Universal Credit will not only remove systemic barriers to employment, it will also remove the distinction between in and out of work", the distinction between sense and nonsense having long since departed. Raking through the messianic mulch, it appears that the idea is to ensure that "even one hour of work", on minimum wage or less, will be easier than claiming the Duncan Smith panacea, even if the relevant software and statistics are by that time so nearly adequate that Duncan Smith himself cannot understand them.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Racist Pricks

The great British sense of humour, as exemplified in the rise of UKIP and the Prime Minister's delightful put-downs of pushy females, is famously conspicuous by its absence in our Teutonic cousins. A member of the German Green party has complained to the condom manufacturer R&S about an order of custom-built contraceptives by the youth wing of the National Democratic Party. The little swine dispatched them to lawmakers in black boxes labelled "For foreigners and certain Germans", along with a letter accusing the recipients of "failing to provide the foundations for a family policy which will halt the demographic catastrophe facing our people." It seems that Britishness is not the only national purity which is in danger these days.

In this country, of course, the perpetrators of such a stunt would swiftly be established as harmless clowns with columns in respectable media outlets and regular appearances on game shows and other current-affairs television; but Germany, with its recent history of racism, imperialism and military aggression, has a less easy-going attitude. R&S apologised and pledged to donate the proceeds from the order to a foundation against right-wing extremism and anti-semitism. In modern Europe, evidently, a foundation against anti-immigrantism was too much to hope for.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Aping the Grown-Ups

A parliamentary motion to withdraw from the Rome Statute has been passed in the former British colony of Kenya. The statute regulates prosecutions at the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, provided such crimes are committed by Africans and not by the Reverend Blair. Kenya's president and vice-president are scheduled for trial next week for some alleged post-electoral violence in 2007-08 which killed slightly more civilians than the average monthly toll in Iraq about that time. The World Cop by the grace of God has never signed up to the Rome Statute at all, in case its military personnel should fall victim to a cultural misunderstanding over depleted uranium, white phosphorous, régime change, drone justice or shock and awe; and Kenya's poor benighted parliamentarians evidently see no reason why their own hired hands should be similarly compromised.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Dodgy Artful

In one of those real-life incidents where the symbolism is as thick and fast as Michael Gove, the launch of Britain's third Astute-class nuclear submarine has been delayed in case the quay falls apart beneath its weight. The original Astute, it may be remembered, was no sooner completed (over-budget and behind schedule) than it collided with Scotland and had to be towed away by tugs which the Government had only just decided were unnecessary. The second submarine in the class, named Ambush in honour of its function as a keeper of world peace, apparently managed to get to sea without suffering more than its share of British military efficiency; but the third, named Artful after the late defence minister Liam Werritty, will now take up its terrorist-deterring duties only after BAE Systems has investigated the state of the dock, which is in the north of England and hence somewhat decrepit. BAE Systems has promised that, whatever repairs may prove necessary, there will be no further delays in pandering to the nation's continuing imperial delusion.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Modest Adjustments

That well-known bulwark against religious fanaticism, the Righteous State, has been having a bit of trouble with its own officially-sponsored god-botherers. Bearded lunatics are on the rise, demanding gender-segregated public spaces and bans on images of women in advertising. This of course presents a cruel dilemma to any country which aspires to be a genuine European colony, let alone a fully-paid-up deputy of the World Cop by the grace of God. The government has given a little ground, ordering the "targeted adjustment" (censorship, in Oldspeak) of material on human reproduction and contraception in the textbooks used at junior-high faith schools. Images of women are not covered by the changes: "The image of women has a place and expression in school textbooks," condescended the education ministry. More to the point, an advertising and beach-tourist business without pictures of female flesh would be no business at all.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Business, Innovation and Sarin

Market forces appear to have let down the Government's war for a better world even more severely than the perfidious Milibeing. In January last year, when Assad was already well along with his Blairite peacekeeping agenda, the Government granted licenses for a British company to export chemicals which can be used in the manufacture of nerve gas. Possibly the Government was trying to preserve the legacy of the sainted Thatcher, who responded to Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the eighties by doubling his export credits; possibly the Government was thinking of the old bag's Father in Heaven, Winston Churchill, who shared Saddam Hussein's ideas about dealing with uncivilised tribes. Fortunately for the Government, and for the Minister of Business, Innovation and Perfunctory Grumbling Before Voting Meekly Along, Vincent Cable, the licenses were revoked after a mere six months, as a result of interference by the hated European Union. Somehow this was managed before the chemicals could be delivered (doubtless clearly marked Not to be Used for Internal Repression), although the Government considerately waited for six weeks after the EU ruling before bothering to apply it.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

You Wouldn't Have the Clout of the Westminster Banana Monarchy

If nothing else, Daveybloke's little Syria crisis has provided the Better Together campaign with a new and delightful comedy turn, which was delivered in Glasgow by Gordon Brown's little Darling. The New New Labour ex-chancellor, still struggling to gain a retrospective veneer of competence even after three years of George Osborne, gave vent to oracular warnings about an independent Scotland's position in the world. Boiled down, they amounted to little more than a proclamation that, the next time a Syria happens, it will all be the fiend Salmond's fault. An independent Scotland would not have a seat on the United Nations security council, and therefore would not be able either to assist the United States in trampling international law or to fume impotently while the evil Russians, the perfidious French and the Heathen Chinee exercised their purely technical veto.

Nevertheless, Darling also noted that "Scotland has very many talented people", so that it should hardly be beyond their competence to produce a dodgy dossier when required. Darling called the Scottish government's formal prospectus a "remarkable work of fiction", although it will not be published for another fortnight: an amusing echo of the Reverend Blair's attitude to mere evidence.

Despite all that, Darling was very nearly upstaged by the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, who had the nerve to invoke the National Health Service. An independent Scotland might just possibly allow its citizens to be treated, but "if there's not a specialist unit in Scotland, you can go to a unit in Newcastle or elsewhere," and provided the Union remains intact "there is nothing that gets in the way of that", except Serco, the whims of the market and her colleagues in Westminster.