Monthly Archives: June 2005

At the dispatch box Michael Howard rises and says to Tony Blair, “Would the Rt. Hon. gentleman agree that the latest MRSA figures are a disaster and a shocking indictment of his government’s failed NHS strategy?”. Blair gets up to respond, but instead turns round to his backbenchers and says “Did you hear that? He said he’s got poopy pants! ha ha ha! Poopy-pants Howard!” The Labour backbenches roar with laughter, applaud, cheer, and then shout down Howard every time he tries to say anything with chants of “poopy-pants” until he gets so fed up he leaves the chamber in disgust.

Welcome to the blogosphere.
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It’s madness. Madness I tell you!

Our absurdly unrepresentative government (elected by 22% of registered voters) led by the most distant and disconnected Prime Minister since the mad bloke who talked to trees (yes, I know he was a king not PM, but there’s every chance he thought he was prime minister from time to time just as Blair, I feel sure, has a habit of thinking he’s a king) is now openly allowing the demands of drug-dealers to shape health policy.

What the hell is going on?
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As a great fan of pornography, I believe that legalising the showing of erections and penetration in the UK was one of New Labour’s more creditable achievements. However, much of my favourite porn is still produced in the US, leaving me concerned on a personal as well as a political level about the US government’s new set of regulations on pornography. While the rules ostensibly serve admirable goals, they are sinister in intent and could prove disastrous in practice.

If you run a US website (or any other kind of publication) depicting anything that could be perceived as porn, you now need to record the name and date of birth (and alias, and maiden name, where appropriate) of all participants. If you didn’t make the film/picture, you need either to keep the same records anyway, or at least to know that the person you acquired the content from has the records. Ingeniously, you also need to publish a physical address where you’ll be available for 20 hours a week, just in case a policeman wants to inspect your paperwork.
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A much wiser, fatter, and more Italian man than me may once have said, “Respect the family.” Family is the most important thing in the world, but in today’s Britain (that sounds a bit Daily Mail…), we don’t respect that basic building block of society (and as a good Conservative, I have to now deny that there is such a thing…). It is a sine qua non of the right – stable families produce good citizens, in every sense of that word. No politician would claim to be anti-family, but several generations of ‘liberal’ social policy have had unintended consequences, and I think it’s time for the left to reconsider some of their own sine qua non’s.

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For my first sentence of my first post, I would first like to thank these kind gentlemen for letting a girl (as Blimpish put it, ‘a real, live one!’) into their midst. I’m frightfully flattered to have been asked up for coffee and I promise to put the loo seat back up before I leave.

With the worldwide elevation of the ‘couch potato’ story from ‘and finally…’ to actual news, I thought I’d talk a little about language and politics, and I’m afraid it’s a long one. You see, from a descriptive linguist’s position, even if the British Potato Council is successful, there is something fundamentally pointless about changing a word in a dictionary.
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It is one of those undisputed tenets of faith of many right-wing commentators that Europe is a hot-bed of anti-Americanism. That Europeans instinctively reject anything that comes from the States simply because it has an American tag attached to it. The war in Iraq, Bush’s refusal to sign up to the Kyoto agreement, the Republican tax-cutting agenda, MacDonald’s and Starbucks – opposition to all these things is frequently portrayed as emanating from an knee-jerk anti-Americanism. Uncle Sam and all his works are fundamentally evil.

But is anti-Americanism really that widespread? And where precisely does legitimate criticism of the USA stray over the line into blatant anti-American sentiment?
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The UK government may soon face a terrible clash of Silly New Laws: not only has it vowed to protect witches from discrimination, it has also vowed to clamp down on witches. The Wiccans are apparently following in the footsteps of their historical predecessors in seeking to slaughter children, although gingerbread houses appear not to be involved this time round.

This clash should be fairly easy to resolve in reality: we’ll come to some kind of compromise. The government will issue empty statements and impose scary new laws as part of its War On Baby Eating, which will make a large proportion of the Wiccan community believe that we fear them and want to burn them at the stake. However, to make sure they don’t lose the Wiccan vote, the government will also issue empty statements that most witches are perfectly OK, and impose scary new laws that make it illegal for anyone to suggest that witches eat babies. Nobody will be prosecuted under any of them, but at least satirists won’t be left short of material.

However, we should be worried about the Metropolitan Police’s clampdown on witchcraft for reasons that go well beyond lame analogies with the War on Terror. The story, according to the Met, is that young boys are being smuggled into the UK from Africa in order to be slaughtered as part of the spell-performing ritual at some of London’s black (as in African, rather than Satanic) churches. I think we can probably agree that this would be pretty awful, if it were happening.
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