Monthly Archives: December 2005

Below the fold you’ll see the full text of a series of telegrams sent by Craig Murray, the then British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, to the Foreign Office. Briefly, the situation Murray describes is as follows. Karimov’s Uzbekistan, a vile authoritarian regime, routinely uses torture on its own people. Torture during interrogations rarely produces usable information and very often produces bad information: people being tortured will, eventually, say anything to make it stop. Read More

While other TV reviewers use the excuse of a forthcoming week or two off to round off the year with a review of all they’ve watched over the past 12 months, I prefer to just carry on as normal, if only because reviews of the year in any media provoke only slightly less dread in me than the prospect of having to read through yet another bunch of pages devoted to telling us what every person in the review editor’s address book wants us to think they’re reading. So, let’s proceed with what may or not be, depending on how busy I am for the next couple of weeks, the last Sharpener TV review of 2005.
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This rant is spat at you from the baleful keyboard of David Duff, who sits, or rather, slumps, in his armchair viewing the actions of his fellow man through a beady, and occasionally, it must be admitted, blood-shot eye. Those possessed of a strong stomach may inspect, at a safe distance, his other putrid opinions at


Alas, my Canute-like orders are of no avail. Still it advances; inexorably it slithers and slides and smarms its way into every nook and cranny, mounting ever higher until now, this, my last rant, is delivered with the ghastly, treacly, oily, viscous slime up to my chin and I can only croak one more time, “Stop this soppy, sanctimonious, show-off sentimentality – NOW!”

There was a time, and I am old enough to remember it, when the English were renowned for their sang-froid, their upper lips stiffer than a Grenadier guardsman (no jokes, please, gentlemen!), their emotions stacked neatly in the deep-freeze of rectitude. Wailing and gnashing of teeth was strictly for that peculiar species, ‘Johnnie Foreigner’, but never, ever, for an Englishman.

Well, all that’s long gone. I’m not sure when and where this oozing, sticky glut of sentimentality first arose. Probably Liverpool, under the Celtic influence of its Irish population. Certainly the ‘Scousers’ have developed it into a fine art form helped, no doubt, by the practice they get each time their ‘footie fans’ get bored with their tedious team and decide to crush the other fans to death, on the not totally unreasonable grounds that it is likely to provide better entertainment than watching their lack-lustre team. Later, of course, this sort of event provides excellent opportunities for a lachrymose outpouring of utterly insincere grief with all the modern icons of sentimentality in the form of piles of cheap flowers and vomit-inducing ‘notes of condolence’. These are presented with a canny eye on whether or not the ‘telly’ cameras are present and normally involve prodding their deeply unattractive children forward to, and please don’t laugh, ‘pay their respects’. Not even the tiniest glimmer of a thought enters their fat, stupid heads to the effect that if they had behaved like civilised people in the first place; no-one would have died!

I thought, and hoped, that this glutinous tide had reached its peak with the funeral of Princess Diana, when the entire nation, except me, went into a welter of sopping wet sentimentality that I had never thought to witness on these shores. But no, exactly the same lunacy took place only a fortnight ago when hundreds of thousands of my fellow subjects started behaving like a bunch of emotional Italians over the deserved, indeed worked at, death of George Best. Was he a war hero? Did he find a cure for cancer? Had he personally run a shelter for Ethiopian war orphans? No, he was a footballer! Instantly a queue of tear-stained morons formed to help produce a mountain of shirts and scarves and the ubiquitous cheap flowers.

As a last effort to fight against this sentimental effluent that is threatening to drown us all, I have decided on a plan of direct action. The next time you drive past a woeful, little bunch of decaying flowers set by the roadside in order to mark the spot where some Darren, or Kevin, having borrowed Dad’s ‘Beamer’, chucked back ten pints and then, presumably in the interests of scientific enquiry, decided to test Newton’s laws of motion, and coming to the conclusion a nano-second before his head went through the windscreen that probably the old boy was right; instead of driving past, swerve slightly to the left and run over them! If, on the other hand, the flowers are reasonably fresh, stop the car, pinch them and give them to the wife. (Actually, that might not be such a good idea because she will instantly suspect that you have been up to no good and give you hell for it. Well, that’s women for you, no sentimentality there then!)

Oh, and by the way, er, Happy Christmas!

“It seemed a good idea at the time” has been an excuse for many people, and television is no exception. FromThe Borgias to Celebrity Wrestling, producers and commissioning editors have used it to justify all sorts of atrocities committed against the tastes of the viewing public.
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As promised, here’s a roundup of some of the blogs that have appeared in the last few months. And a fair crop it is too. The list represents all the blogs submitted and there is no political bias from me.

To be fair I’ve ranked them in alphabetical order and no qualititive judgements should be inferred – make your own mind up.

Without further ado…

The Apollo Project missed the August 1 cutoff by two days which was close enough. It’s a Liberal Democrat group blog.

Atlantic Rift is a transatlantic blog run by Jonn in London and Aaron in New York. Jonn assures me “we started in late June, but we didn’t
have any actual readers until we started half-assedly publicising it
in at least August”. Oh, go on then.

Bratiaith is “a Bilingual blog about matters Welsh and international”.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

Cicero’s Songs describes himself as “a social and economic liberal”.
(Nominated by Ken Owen.)

Drinking From Home, at four days old, is the youngest blog on the list and is currently tracking down “those politically correct poltroons whose craven deference to Islamic fundamentalism hastens the erosion of our island’s traditions and rights”.

East Acton is the blog of Philip Portwood, a Labour Councillor for East Acton ward in the London Borough of Ealing.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

Eastcliff Matters is the blog of David Green, Thanet District Councillor for Eastcliff in Ramsgate and Labour Party member.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

ebeefs comes from Lahai J Samboma, a Sierra Leonean journalist currently living in the UK, with “a progressive, leftist perspective”.
(Nominated by Tim Worstall.)

Gavpolitics is a Conservative blogger and prospective candidate in the May 2006 council elections. He’s in my neck of the woods as well.

GenghisBlog storms across the plains to bring us his own brand of right wing vituperation.

The G-Gnome Rides Out catalogues “the Right Wing Rants and Ramblings Of A Jesuitical Sophist”.
(Nominated by Laban Tall in The Sharpener comments.)

Great Britain, Not Little England might be familiar to some as MatGB has been mingling as all good bloggers should. Him and PaulJ are “reclaiming the British ideals from the small minded nanny staters”.
(Nominated by Me.)

Huggy’s Mind is the home of “generally moderate left wing ramblings”.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

Jawbox is the nom de plume of Ben Phillips, athiest, socialist and Chelsea supporter.
(Nominated by Nosemonkey.)

John West is a journalist and Labour member living in Paris.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

Lee Gregory is a pro-Labour blogger holding forth on policy and politics.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

Mr Eugenides expounds on an impressive array of subjects.

Musings Of A Disheartened Doctor does what it says on the tin. I hope his iPod gets better soon.
(Nominated by Nosemonkey.)

Nip/Fuct : Tales from the NHS is the everyday story of “a greedy doctor looking for job satifaction AND life satisfaction”. There’s politics in there too.
(Nominated by Nosemonkey.)

Optimates is brought to us by Daniel Lucraft, Cameroonian (Cameronite?) “libertarian conservative”.

Pickled Politics is a group blog aiming to “reflect the political voice of young, progressive British Asians”.
(Nominated by Jarndyce.)

Pigdogfucker is “glorifying terrorists, tolerating intolerance, and making excuses for the inexcusable”.

Points of Jew is a Jewish group blog that intriguingly offers “2 Jews, 3 opinions and much more”.
(Nominated by Robert Sharp.)

Politics for beginners is ChickenLittle’s “political diary of a political newbie”.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

Frank O’Dwyer is Rearranging the Deckchairs while expounding on politics and moral philosophy.

Robert Sharp gets an entry for his own drum – politics, ethics and some slices of life thrown in.

Thesisville! is your genuine “leftie post-structuralist marxist” (it says here) going slowly insane on the final year of a PHD thesis. And has just announced a blogging hiatus, dammit.
(Nominated by Jarndyce.)

Tory Convert bills herself as “Young, Female and Tory” and so is that rarest of creatures the female political blogger.
(Nominated by Ken Owen.)

Tim Neale’s Tea4Two was created in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings and now has an emphasis on civil liberties.

To The Point belongs to Decent Left blogger Andres Kupfer.
(Nominated by Andrew at Bloggers4Labour)

World Weary Detective gives us his views as Metropolitian Police detective. AKA “A view of life from the thin layer between you and the underclass”.

And that’s your lot. A big girlie kiss to all those who sent their blogs or made nominations.

Go forth and refresheth thy blogroll.

This week’s ranter: Please be upstanding for the general pendantry of the The Pedant-General in Ordinary

I Blame the Parents

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”

So quoth your stern and hard-boiled Pedant-General in one of his very first posts.

There is nothing like a good dose of personal responsibility to bring out the libertarian in you, and nothing brings out personal responsibility in you more than having children. Raising children is an expensive, tiring and distracting task but, like most other good things in life, amply repays the effort invested. So far, so non-contentious.

But ask yourself: are we, as a nation, doing the best job we can to ensure that children are brought up in stable, loving homes that they may become productive, law-abiding citizens ready to take the fight for the advancement of mankind to the next generation?

Or have:

* the demands of womens lib – which has put enormous pressure on women to return to work leaving their children to faceless childcare and breaking down the stability that small children so desperately need before the age of five;

* the advent of the ambulance chasers and “Human Rights” lawyers – which divorces adults from responsibility for their own actions in general and the application of “reasonableness” in particular;

* relentless political correctness – which undermines the enlightenment values of reason as the arbiter of men and sees criminal and unpleasant behaviour as the unavoidable result of self-inflicted social deprivation;

* the welfare state – which actively discriminates against parents sticking together to share the task of child-rearing;

* and disastrous trendy teaching methods – don’t get me started on phonics

combined to create a generation of illiterate, semi-feral automatons who do not understand and hence resent the world around them nor have any hope of lifting themselves out of their quagmire and every chance of creating further generations of similarly hopeless cases in their turn?

My thesis is that raising children requires responsibility. The same applies in reverse: intercede between parents and their responsibility towards (and for the actions of) their children and an authoritarian state becomes almost a necessity to keep the rabble in order.

But do I detect a certain incoherence?

“We need to change the way we feel. No more grumbling about modern Britain, I love this country – as it is, not as it was – and I believe our best days lie ahead.”

On the other hand…

“I want to set free the voluntary sector and social enterprises to deal with the linked problems that blight so many of our communities – of drug abuse, family breakdown, poor public space, chaotic home environments, high crime. We can deal with these issues, we can mend our broken society,” the well-connected Old Etonian insisted.

Modern Britain is broken, but I love it. Well, never mind what he says. The message is “I’m like you”. Read More

Muslims may not be on course for another set of gas chambers as some seem to think (see this entry at my own blog), but Islamophobia in Europe is taking on yet another of the characteristics of traditional European anti-Semitism: the conspiracy theory. We’ve all heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document containing supposed plans for Jewish world domination fabricated by a Russian agent about a century ago; the tone of a Melanie Phillips diary entry revealing a similarly conspiratorial document of the authorship of members of the Muslim Brotherhood brought precisely this to mind. The Daily Ablution has published a series of articles about the 14-page document, allegedly discovered during a raid on a villa near Lugano in Switzerland by Swiss and Italian police in November 2001. “The Project”, supposedly dating from 1982, is made to sound like a plan for Muslim world domination, “a strategic plan whose ultimate ambition is ‘to establish the Kingdom of God everywhere in the world'”. (More: Crooked Timber.)

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‘Reality’ is everywhere on television these days, giving people the chance to sit at home and watch other people going about their lives and wonder whether a mirror might have been a cheaper way of getting the same thrills. But sometimes the lives of real people can make for good entertainment, though usually when there’s a script involved.
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