Sunday, 21 December 2008

At least we know when we're ill

Posting's been right down here, hasn't it? Sorry about that. There are a variety of reasons: Christmas is about the only time I actually have a social life; this new trend of job interviewers asking you to prepare a "short" presentation is a complete, and unwarranted, time-thief; lastly, I've been ill.

It's worth being clear about the last part. This was no seasonal cold; I was genuinely, sweatingly, shiveringly, ill. That the onset of symptoms started on the way back from my team Christmas party, leading the next morning to the least convincing sickness phonecall in the history of employment is merely emblematic of the wretched, cough-racked misery that I've been dragging my sorry carcass through. Because on day two I had been called back for a second interview half way across town; there can be no better preparation for an hour's Sounding Clever And Being Impressive than hawking up 50cl of coagulated mucus at Vauxhall tube. I staggered back from what was doubtless an inspiring performance just in time to spend the next 36 hours shivering in 4 layers of clothing and drinking my own weight in vitamin-bearing fluid.

In other words, as my female colleagues and pretty much every woman I know took delight in informing me, I had man-flu. It is, apparently, all but impossible for men to actually get sick; anything short of Ebola gets a knowing roll of the eyes, a patient sigh and a healthy dose of patronising skepticism. You can get a signed affidavit from a battery of doctors for all the good it will do you; the first suggestion that, being ill, you've decided not to do some otherwise simple task (go to work, take the recycling to the skip, scale Mt Kilimanjaro) and you become just one more of a long line of whingeing males, eager to give in to their illness where a woman would soldier on, hopped-up on decongestant and coughing up her own spleen.

Well, enough. It may be little enough compared to centuries of social, financial and political dominance, but I'm done with it. Women's position as the arbiters of what is and is not illness, suffering or pain is based (as far as I can tell) on the all but unimaginable rigours of pregnancy and childbirth. (That and leg-waxing.) Not any more. From now on, I'm calling BS on the whole "agony of childbirth" thing. I bet it's really a doddle. Moreover, I'm going to take the wholly unsupported position that men would cope much better. "Tchah," I will say, when next confronted by another claim that men don't know what pain really is, "tchah. Sounds like it was just woman-birth."

I can't see this plan going wrong at all.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Holiday Cheer

Owing to a MacGuffin in the space-time continuum, I've recently come into possession of some alternative drafts of "A Christmas Carol", as written by a number of different authors. In the interests of literary scholarship, I'm presenting a number here:


SCROOGE: I think you'll find - when all these festivities are over and done - I think you'll find yourself one smiling pauper. You see, right now, Bob, you've got a position. And painful as it may be, positions don't last for ever. Now that's a hard wretched fact of life, but it's a fact of life your posterior is going to have to get realistic about. This business is filled to the brim with unrealistic wretches who thought they'd be home on Christmas Day. If you mean they got fired, they did. If you mean they got time off, they didn't.

On the day itself, you might feel a slight glow. That's Christmas, humbugging you. Humbug Christmas! Much good Christmas ever did to any man. Overcome that nonsense, and a year from now, when your crippled son is dying piteously, you're gonna say, "Ebeneezer Scrooge was right"

MARLEY: I got no problem with that

SCROOGE: On Christmas Day, your posterior is in the office.


SCROOGE: Say it!

MARLEY: On Christmas Day, my posterior is in the office
Chuck Palahniuk

Marley becomes my business partner, and after that, Marley's rattling chains in my face and saying, the common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and deliverance, were, all, my business.

His ghostly chains piled on the floor, Marley says, "You will be haunted by three spirits"
I look about me for my own chains. You forge your own chain in life, link by link, yard by yard. You do it every day, the way you treat the people you pass by.

You treat people wrong and the chain will imprison your immortal soul. I know this because Jacob Marley knows this.

"Three spirits will visit you over the next three nights" says Marley. "You can't rebuild yourself until you truly hit bottom."

I am Ebeneezer's frightened anticipation.


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a wretched miser in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a haunting.


I'm sure there must be more out there...

Friday, 5 December 2008

Stalinism run riot

So, if you're keeping score at home, Damian Green's rock solid position on the moral high ground has two foundations:

1) Parliamentary Privilege - to search his office is to tear down the very fabric of democracy, you big bullies.
2) You gotta have a warrant - can't search the sacrosanct Houses of Parliament without a warrant, approved by the DPP and blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Pity about this then:

Parliamentary privilege “does not embrace and protect the activities of individuals, whether members or non-members, simply because they take place within the precincts of Parliament.

and also this:

Section 8 (1) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act as amended permits a Justice of the Peace to issue a warrant authorising a constable to enter and search premises where satisfied on application by a constable that there are reasonable grounds for believing:


c) That entry to the premises will not be granted unless a warrant is produced.

So if you think you'll get consent, you don't need a warrant. Why did the police think they'd get consent? Because they asked for it the day before:

On Wednesday 26th November 2008 police officer led by the Senior Investigating Officer attended the Palace of Westminster to speak to the Serjeant at Arms...The officers explained the nature of the investigation and the purpose of the search and were satisfied that the Serjeant at Arms understood that police had no power to search in the absence of a warrant and therefore could only do so with her written consent or that of the Speaker. ... The Serjeant at Arms indicated that she would give her consent at the appropriate time...

On the 27th November 2008 officers attended the Palace of Westminster where they again saw the Serjeant at Arms and written consent to search was provided in two forms; namely a signature on a standard police search form 101 and in a letter provided by the Serjeant at Arms. It is understood that the Serjeant at Arms had obtained legal advice in the interim.

It's just like those Stasi pigs to follow the legal requirements. Just thugs in uniform, if you ask me.

(Yes, yes - it's technically possible that the police have published an entirely fictitious account of the crucial events. Wouldn't that be bold.)

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Is there an eye-surgeon in the house?

The Daily Mail reports on the latest pearls of wisdom from the Council of Mortgage Lenders. (The incredulous bolding is mine.)

In an explosive speech, director general Michael Coogan said that the 11.7 million with a mortgage are being forced to cope with a 'dysfunctional' market.

In a reference to the struggle of millions of homeowners to get a loan, he said: 'We have, in effect, returned to mortgage rationing.'

He also said the Government's £37 billion banking bailout was not enough to stop the crisis.

He accused the Government, the Bank of England the Financial Services Authority of making 'piecemeal, self-interested decisions'.

The Mail, somehow, does not go on to report the shout of laughter, followed by shocked silence, followed by murderous howls of frustrated rage with which the audience greeted this masterpiece of two-faced chutzpah, nor on the great fortune with which Mr Coogan escaped from the baying mob with his life.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Fools rush in

There's a lot of good comment about the whole Green affair, particularly here, but for me the most trenchant was made by Tom Freeman.

I’d like to comment at some length on the propriety of the arrest of Damian Green, based on my detailed knowledge of the information the police acted on, what they found during their searches, the questions they asked him, the answers he gave, and the precise nature of his relationship with the civil servant in question. Alas, I have no such detailed knowledge

Nobody knows enough about this to say anything very sensible. It may be that the police have good evidence that Green was soliciting and rewarding leaks; in which case isn't it good that they were able to investigate a potentially very serious breach of the law? Or it may be that they had no such evidence; in which case this exactly as disgraceful as any other unwarranted* arrest/search. Ignorant of this fairly fundamental point, the media and MPs have settled instead for trivia, to wit:

1) Why hasn't the Home Secretary apologised?
For what? Personally ordering her jackbooted thugs to make Green's daughter cry? I suspect she didn't give that order. There's a difference between "sorry for" and "sorry that"; until we know that Jacqui Smith actually told the police a) to arrest Green or b) to be a bit mean to him when they did, then what need is their for her to apologise. Here's the gold standard of "heavy-handed" arrests - the Forest Gate raid that not only ended with counter-terrorism police questioning two innocent men for well over nine hours, but also involved one them being shot. No Home Secretary apologised for that - the police did. Because, you know, they're the ones who did it.

2) How could this happen to one of us?
The sense of oxen being gored is palpable. Check out Dennis MacShane's temperate use of language:

"MPs, yes they are protected under privilege when they speak in the House of Commons, but there is a broader constitutional privilege that says they can meet anyone, talk about anything, discuss their political passions, they can hold files, and the police, the agents of the state, do not storm in there and start breaking in or going into offices and taking away confidential files that all our constituents think will be treated confidentially."

I'd like to see some evidence of this "broader constitutional privilege". To read MacShane, you'd think MPs could have a stack of dead hookers in their office and remain beyond legal reproach. Here's a crazy notion: if, as an MP, you break the law you don't get to run inside your office and shut the door while the police come to a screeching halt outside the Palace of Westminster. This isn't the Dukes of Hazzard, for Christ's sake.

3) The pigs totally called him a paedo
Oh, sweet Jesus. Yes, the verb "grooming" does have one meaning relating to child abuse. Context, however is all. Despite all my calls to dog-grooming businesses, for example, I am still to find one that will even begin to help me realise my long-standing borzoi/shitsu threesome fantasy. Similarly, while you might be alarmed to hear a policeman ask if you've been involved in grooming, the immediate use of the phrase "26-year-old" should offer a glimmer of insight that you're not in fact being fitted up as politic's answer to Gary Glitter.

There's a point where righteous outrage begins to look a little like desparate shit-flinging; distraction rather than defence. When your position rests on the fundamental principles of democracy, why stoop to this petty, meaningless crap?

*I kill me.