Friday, November 15, 2002

Hindley Dead

Myra Hindley has died age 60 of respiratory failure following a heart attack. I don't think there's a person alive who will mourn her passing.

If there was ever a case that called for full life term imprisonment it was the moors murders. There are no adequate words to describe how revolted the nation was. The callousness displayed by Hindley and Brady has never been forgotten.

She may have reformed. She may have become a born-again Christian. She may well have been rendered harmless. None of these things matter. Every day she spent in prison was absolutely justified. It's true that criminals of similar wickedness did not share her notoriety and received more lenient treatment, but that's an argument for tougher, not softer sentencing.

Methodist Minister Peter Timms has condemned the length of her sentence as "completely unfair". The next time he is inspired to comment on the criminal justice system I hope he will temper his views with some perspective. Hindley experienced a peaceful death. Her victims did not.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Iraq needs better writers

Iraq has more than its fair share of problems and one of them appears to be lazy writing. If Naji Sabri Ahmed's letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is the most eloquent response they can come up with then I fear for these guys.

The SC will be compelled before the public opinion and the law to activate paragraph 14 of its resolution No. 687, by applying it to the Zionist entity (Israel), and then, to all the Middle East region, to make it a region void of mass destruction weapons. The number of just people will, then, increase in the world, and Iraq's possibility to drive away the cawing of the crows of evil that daily raid its land, and kill Iraqis and destroy their property by their bombs.

Now I admit I'm guilty of writing the odd bit of purple prose myself but this sets a new standard. Isn't there some sort of common tone adopted by diplomats when they're exchanging these things? Don't they even pretend to be polite anymore? I'd still expect them to grit their teeth and use a bit of civility even if their governments feel like ripping each other to shreds.

I'm really glad they pointed out that the "Zionist entity" they're on about is Israel, because I thought they were talking about Marks & Spencer. And you'd need a hand-picked special-ops unit of cunning linguists to decipher this bit:

We have said to the members of the Security Council whom we have contacted, or who have contacted us, when they told us about the pretexts of the Americans and their threat to perpetrate aggression against our country, whether unilaterally or with participated from others, if the Council were not to allow them to have their way, that we preferred, if it ever became necessary to see America carry out its aggressions against us unilaterally, when we would have to confront it relying on Allah, instead of seeing the American government obtaining an international cover with which to camouflage its falsehood, partially or completely, bringing it closer to the truth, so that it may stab the truth with the dagger of evil and confronted the United States before when it looked as it does now, and this was one of the factors of its isolation in the human environment on the globe at large.

Have we been blockading Iraq's supply of full stops? That's one hundred and fifty-four words without one. I haven't witnessed a paucity of punctuation like this since I read European Court opinions at uni. Could this be part of their strategy? Are the Iraqis making the UN an offer it can't understand so it can play footsie with it a little bit longer? Are they baffling us to buy time?

Andrew Sullivan points out that if you received a letter like this you'd call the police. These guys need better writers. I'm sure Aaron Sorkin is available on a fee-paying basis.

Fire Fight

Well, I hope the fireman are happy. One woman died last night here, and there are reports of two other deaths on the morning news.

Of course firemen deserve better pay - just like lots of other public sector workers. But their demand for a forty percent increase is extremist posturing and obviously isn't going to be taken seriously. They know this fine well and they're prepared to engage in old-fashioned brinksmanship to get as big a settlement as they can.

Maybe I should wait until I've had my coffee before jumping into Daily Mail Authoritarian Mode but I think enough is enough. The possibility of another strike should be removed from the table. If we're talking about firing people or making arrests then so be it. This is one of these rare times when the government needs to put the foot down hard, and to hell with what the trade unions say.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Shock of the New

The reforms to the criminal justice system outlined in the Queen's speech reveal the government's hatred of the past, according to Janet Daley in the Telegraph. David Blunkett derides "outdated" and "age-old" procedures that form the basis of our law and seeks to abolish the double jeopardy rule and reveal defendants' previous convictions.

What is the main problem, he asked himself, with our increasingly delinquent society and our apparent inability to police it? Why, an adherence to tradition, of course. For New Labour, the same thing is wrong with British justice as is wrong with everything else in this country. We have a sentimental, irrational attachment to historical institutions and customs that can only be overcome by a courageous modernising government.

I hope these blatantly, destructively unjust proposals get stuck in some dusty Parliamentary committee, never again to darken our doorstep. It's one of the most infuriating characteristics of this government: judging institutions and rules by their age instead of their value. A thing's age becomes evidence for the prosecution. We've now got the legislative equivalent of a makeover show where a fashionable youngster surveys a room and smirkingly declares: "that is so nineteenth century".

There's certainly a case for cutting copious amounts of red tape and doing some serious arse-kicking at the Crown Prosecution Service. But the government has taken huge, ill-judged swipes at tradition (which I bet they'll describe as "bold" at every opportunity).

Blair says of these measures: "that has long been the case in Germany, Finland and Denmark." Oh well, that's all right then. I guess we know which countries are going to be models for Scots and English law from now on.

Blair has written screeds on the subject of respect, but he seems blind to the possibility that government programmes aren't the best way of creating it. He's right - informal networks between people and families are important. But there's not a government on earth that can cultivate them.

The Pile Of Dishes Theory of Economic Planning

If only Marx and Lenin could have seen this....

Monday, November 11, 2002

This is hardcore

Peter Cuthbertson points out the latest insanity from the European Court of Human Rights. Prisoners will be allowed hardcore pornography after mounting a challenge based on the Human Rights Act.

Makes a change from mounting each other, I suppose.

Under Article 10 of Act prisoners have the right of expression and the right to receive information. I shudder to think what tortuous legal manoeuvres were employed to get to a conclusion where pictures of sexual acts are "information". This is what human rights means now: The right to free expression, speech and a trouble-free wank. What next - legislation in favour of better bowel movements?

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Steven Chapman has studiously explored the clich├ęs infesting modern British films this week. This is in response to producer Leslee Udwin's call for positive discrimination in favour of homegrown films. Cinderella Bloggerfeller came up with this in the comments:

I'm currently trying to get a grant for a film about a working class unicyclist whose local performance art collective Vicious Cycles of Oppression has had its subsidy cut by an uncaring and philistine Conservative government. Unicycling home he passes a huge poster of a sneering, triumphalist Maggie and shakes his fist in righteous anger at her, but loses his balance, falls and grazes his knee. However, such is the state of the NHS under the Tories that the graze turns into gangrene and he has to have his leg amputated (and all his other limbs too for no explicable reason except the need for 'deep symbolism'). Unable to continue his job, he has to sell his family into slavery with an evil southern entrepreneur and Tory MP who has come 'oop north' to turn the recently closed local coal mine into luxury subterranean flats for heartless yuppies. The entrepreneur's dissolute son uses the unicyclist's family as drug mules to fund his million pound a day cocaine habit which he snorts through rolled-up Conservative party manifestos. But en route to Colombia, their plane is hijacked by colourful and socially aware guerrillas and diverted to a lentil-growing commune in Nicaragua where they are taught class consciousness in an amusing yet politically engaged montage sequence. Cue credits with them all laughing and smiling and singing "I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more." The End.

Not far off the mark. I swear, if I have to sit through another one of these grim-oop-north triumph over tragedy comedy-dramas where the "we're poor but we're proud" protaganists laugh through the tears until they overcome adversity I will scream.

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