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Mr Grumpy can now be found posting at

Friday, December 02, 2005

Happy Anniversary

30 years of communism in Laos. No doubt the people will be celebrating - and so, surely, will all the '68ers. What's that? They can't haven't forgotten! Well, if the Grauniad is anything to go by, it looks as if they have.

Maybe there are a few reasons for amnesia here.

'Few glimpse the subsurface realities, of a Utah-sized country whose every neighborhood is under surveillance for dissidents, where most people live on less than $2 a day and which hasn't a single decent hospital to show for its billions in foreign aid.'

Still, just think how much worse things would be if the US imperialists hadn't been driven out. You only have to look at South Korea and Taiwan, don't you?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Pope and gay priests

What's come over the Grauniad? You'd expect the Vatican document to be a red rag to a bull, producing a reaction like this. This is also predictable stuff. But then there's this. Praise the Lord!

How simple does it have to be made? The Roman Catholic Church has a celibate priesthood. If you don't like it, find yourself another job or another church. There has been a problem with men entering the priesthood believing celibate is just for straights. There has been an extremely expensive and damaging problem with some of these men believing it doesn't apply to them even if they fancy one of the altar boys. That's why there's a document. No hidden agendas. Just the need for the Church to restore a basic level of credibility.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Why oh why can't we talk about the real issues?

'In the absence of analysis, voter choices are hardly more meaningful than the options of reality television. Dial 02 for Adair Turner's pension plan or 03 for Gordon Brown's; 04 to withdraw troops from Iraq or 05 to keep them there; 06 to replace Trident or 07 to scrap it.'

I offer a link to this piece in the Observer not because it's worth reading but just for the fun of adding an extra layer of media self-referentiality. Anyone who wishes to link to this post and supply a commentary lamenting Mr Grumpy's preoccupation with media froth is very welcome to do so. And dial 08 to watch Z-list celebrity Mr G consuming marsupial gonads.

Friday, November 25, 2005

This is the Word of the errh...

Changing the subject completely, Mr Grumpy read one of the lessons in church on Sunday. This is a verse from it:-

'As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.' (Ezekiel 34:12)

But not quite, because we have long since ditched the sublime King James Version. Here's what we got in the New Reviled Standard Version:-

'As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.'

Leaving aside the literary merits of the changes, why has the shepherd gone forth and multiplied? You're there before me, but just in case you need a hint, here's an extract from the preface to the New Despised Standard Version, by Bruce M. Metzger on behalf of the Committee of translators:-

'The mandates from the Division [of Education and Ministry of the National Council of Churches of Christ] specified that, in references to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture. As can be appreciated, the Committee found that the several mandates stood in tension and even in conflict.'

Which is being interpreted, we wanted to translate accurately but we were told we had to be PC.

The high point of this idiocy is reached in the story of Christ's entry into Jerusalem, where the quote from Psalm 118 with which the crowds hail Jesus is no longer 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord' (as it still is in the liturgy - how much longer?) but 'Blessed is the one...' (see Matthew 21:9 and Mark 11:9). In Luke's version (ch. 19:38) we still have 'Blessed is the king who comes..'. Doubtless we must await the next revision to see this corrected to 'monarch'.

By the way, Grumpy re-singularized the shepherd, and hasn't had any complaints so far.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chomsky and friend - slippery customers

In the spat over Emma Brockes’ Guardian interview with Noam Chomsky, the latest development is a contribution from Diana Johnstone, whose book about the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia Chomsky was so keen to see published.

Another slippery customer.

She doesn’t quite manage to deny that she minimized the severity of the Srebrenica massacre, nor does she quite manage to admit that is really does stand out as the worst atrocity of the whole conflict. What she does do is claim that there was a campaign to drum up support for a NATO intervention in which a key premise was that the situation was like the Holocaust.

To which I say, cobblers. I don’t recall anyone worth taking notice of saying anything of the kind, and from the fact that she is totally unspecific as to who is supposed to have made this claim, I deduce that she doesn’t either.

What certainly was said was that the Bosnian Muslims were the victims of an unprovoked and brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing - a term first used in this context, I believe. And Ms Johnstone’s take on that? She insinuates that it is a ‘Manichaean’ view of the conflict, but delicately avoids asserting that it was actually wrong. Plenty of Muslims read the Guardian these days, don't they?

A very slippery customer indeed.

On Chomsky himself, and the Guardian’s apology and suppression of the 'offending' interview, see (of course) Oliver Kamm.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tough love from Madeleine

Who'd'a' thought it? Madeleine Bunting lecturing young Muslims on 'tough love' under the headline 'Why Muslims must guard against the satisfactions of complaint'.

But don't worry, our Madeleine of the Sorrows (Norman Geras, not me) hasn't moved too far out of character. This is a gem:-

'As alcohol consumption has soared in the past two decades, Muslims have been left to negotiate its centrality in British social life - at work, school or university, or as neighbours - with great difficulty. Alcohol is probably now one of the most effective and unquestioned forms of exclusion practised in the UK, affecting every kind of social network.'

Speaking personally, I find a little pub culture goes a long way, so I do have a degree of sympathy. But it has never before occurred to me to complain of exclusion. And I have no idea what the best guess for Alcoholics Anonymous's UK membership is, but they certainly make up a substantial constituency of the 'socially excluded'.

It really isn't a problem to go to the pub and not drink, is it? But maybe it gets more difficult if your beliefs confer moral superiority over the drinkers. And could it be that part of the real problem with pub culture lies elsewhere - in the unregulated mixing of the sexes, say?

Then there's this:-

'And then there are the thinly concealed intentions; for example, the government's current proposals to regulate "places of worship" aimed at mosques is an unprecedented intrusion of the state into the affairs of a religious institution that could take Muslim alienation to a whole new level. '

Well, I think you'll find that state interference in religion has plenty of precedent in British history - the terms 'Dissenter' and 'Nonconformist' reflect some pretty hefty levels of social and political exclusion, after all. But I grant that the phenomenon of place of worship as terrorist recruitment office doesn't have too many recent precedents as an argument for interference.


The Beeb on the Egyptian elections:-

An Islamist supporter was killed by a gang of thugs in Alexandria on Sunday, monitors said.

'Militants', surely?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Clinton the stopper?

Did Bill Clinton say, as the Independent’s Rupert Cornwell claims, that ‘the war in Iraq was "a big mistake"’. Yes and no, it seems, but more no than yes. The AP report quotes him as saying ‘The mistake that they made is that when they kicked out Saddam, they decided to dismantle the whole authority structure of Iraq’. Nothing in the report suggests that he condemned the invasion per se.

Did he say anything remotely resembling ‘the sooner American troops leave the better’? No, that is Mr Cornwell’s view, echoing the comments of a congressman whom, I am wiling to bet, not one Indie reader in a thousand has ever heard of. What Clinton did say was ‘We never sent enough troops and didn't have enough troops to control or seal the borders.’ Which doesn’t exactly make him a ‘stopper’. But clearly if you want an eye-catching headline Congressman John Murtha doesn’t quite do the business. So ‘Clinton: The big mistake of the Iraq war - Ex-President leads the critics’ it is.

Is the Independent even trying to be a newspaper of record these days?

The benefits of hindsight

‘Had we intervened in Rwanda in 1994, for instance, we might have stopped the genocide that killed nearly a million innocent civilians.’

The LA Times, for a change, but the suggestion is no stranger to the British papers that lead anti-Iraq war opinion.

What’s interesting is that the assertion draws its force from the fact that it didn’t happen.

Imagine that Clinton had sent troops in and (a more athletic stretch of the imagination) they had been spectacularly successful in stopping the bloodshed. Would he have gone down in left-liberal opinion as:

(a) a great humanitarian who saved hundreds of thousands of lives


(b) a cynical imperialist who must have got wind of Rwanda’s previously unknown oil reserves?

The old Adam

We all know about the brutal overthrow of the Inca and Aztec empires by the conquistadors. Now comes evidence that the fall of the Mayas, seven centuries before Europeans set foot in Latin America, was a no less gruesome affair. Just human nature, I’m afraid.

Torture in Iraq - not fit for the Grauniad to print

Dear Editor,

Whilst naturally you are right to condemn the use of torture by Iraqi government forces, you would do well to remember the principles underlying your enthusiasm for the admission of Turkey into the EU, notwithstanding the ongoing human rights abuses in that country. Iraq is a profoundly brutalized and traumatized nation and is not going to turn into a model democracy overnight. However, a popularly endorsed democratic constitution creates a space for improvement that would never have existed under Saddam Hussain – and one does not need to have been a supporter of the invasion (I was not) to acknowledge this.

Yours faithfully...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


The wisdom of Gary Younge on the French riots:-

‘And the reality is that none of this would have happened without riots. There was no petition these young people could have signed, no peaceful march they could have held, no letter they could have written to their MPs that would have produced these results.’

‘These results’ including ‘10 boarding schools for those who want to leave their estates to study’ – good progressive stuff, eh, Gary?

How many petitions, peaceful marches and letter-writing campaigns did la yoof organize before turning to rioting? I take it the answer is 'not many'. So in fact we don't know what they would or wouldn't have achieved, do we?

‘When all non-violent, democratic means of achieving a just end are unavailable, redundant or exhausted, rioting is justifiable.’

And if rioting turns out not to have done the trick after all, what else will be justifiable? A bomb or two on the Métro, maybe?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

That French riots story in full

Deep waters here, but the general drift appears to be as follows:-

Some oppressed youths began rioting in really quite a small sort of way, but then along came a very unpleasant government minister called Monsieur Sarky and told them they were scum. They were naturally dreadfully upset about this and set about proving him wrong. Score to date: one burnt-out synagogue, two burnt-out churches and one 61-year-old man beaten into a coma whilst trying to put out a fire in a rubbish bin. Whether Monsieur Sarky has got the message yet is not clear.

If anyone wants to call their blog Monsieur Sarky, pardon mon vieux, but I have asserted my moral right.

Chomsky, you @#*%

Great minds think alike, even if they use slightly different terminology. What would the vicar say if Mr Grumpy were to call Chomsky what the Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR call him? So I'm afraid this site has to stick with 'twat'.

That Oliver Kamm's a smart lad. You can't expect quite the incisive analysis you get from self and the Popinjays, of course, but he tries hard. Required reading for all Chomskyites.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A slippery, sanctimonious twat (no, not me)

Being the world’s top public intellectual means never having to say ‘sorry, I was wrong’, because even your wrongness is more right than lesser mortals’ rightness…

Given the immense global success of the Chomsky brand, I can only rejoice at seeing the man so adroitly kebabed by the Guardian’s Emma Brockes, who makes so much sense that I assume she is operating in a province of the Grauniad empire where Seumas’s writ doesn’t run.

The pity is that he undoubtedly will not allow himself the faintest inkling as to what a slippery, sanctimonious twat he comes across as. Hard words from a Christian, but the good thing about Christianity is that you can be a slippery, sanctimonious twat and it’s OK because God loves you anyway. He even loves an irascible old curmudgeon like Mr Grumpy. Chomsky is determined to trust in his own righteousness, and the strain shows.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Men of Steel

Good old Jon Steelin, he never disappoints. Today he’s on about the elections in Poland. Well, yes, precisely: it’s the elections, stupid. Country’s gone to pot since it started on this bourgeois ‘democracy’ nonsense. Some of us remember the days when it was run by people sensitive and caring enough to know what the toiling masses wanted without having to ask them, eh Jon? But fortunately not all is lost. If Condi Rice describes Belorus as the last dictatorship in Europe, you won’t need Jon or me to tell you that it’s really an earthly paradise, ‘strong state’ and all. If the trains don’t quite run on time yet they jolly soon will do. And Poland could be next, if Jon's hopes that the new President will turn out to be a bit of a fascist are fulfilled.

A soul brother for the Man of Steel is Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church. Some might think there could be no clearer illustration of what was at stake in the Cold War than the two Koreas. But not the P.B., who excels himself by warning us against ‘demonization’ of the Democratic People’s Republic of Hell – sorry, I mean Korea…

Have a nice weekend, all you reactionary scumbags out there.

Fame at last

Whilst Mr Grumpy didn’t start blogging with any great expectations of reaching a mass audience, it must be admitted that of late he has been pining for just a little attention. His hopes were raised when two comments were posted. ‘Your blog is really pleasant’ – hey, a fan. Bitter disappointment! The one telling him he pays too much for his car insurance rankled particularly. No he doesn’t. He hasn’t got a car.

And now comes recognition from that prince of the political blogosphere, Laban Tall. Mille grazie, Laban, your blog is the best ever, I’ll have your babies just as soon as it becomes medically feasible, and by the by, did you know that you are probably paying too much for your car insurance?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Respect, Dave

Meanwhile, the organ of the imperialist bourgeoisie has this from the running-dog Aaronovitch. I suppose he thinks he's very clever.

Name and Seumas

Well, I'm disappointed. OK, full marks to Seumas for signing up one of his Respect chums to comment on Lozells. And well done, Salma Yaqoob, for making it clear that it if young blacks riot against Asians it can only be the fault of rich whites. But come on, comrades, what about the Iraq connection? Why are you letting Blair off the hook? Is Respect going soft?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Name and Shame

Can't wait for tomorrow's Guardian. Who will be the first to explain that the race riot in Birmingham would never have happened if Blair hadn't invaded Iraq?

Friday, October 21, 2005

SteeleWatch: that al-Qaida letter

As a pendant to his rubbishing of the Iraqi referendum, al-Grauniad's Jonathan Steele turns to the letter supposedly sent by al-Qaida's 'moderate' second-in-command to the boys in Iraq.

Says Jonathan: 'Whether the letter is fake or not, the targeting issue certainly resonates in Iraq.'

Let's have that once again: 'the targeting issue certainly resonates in Iraq.' There's a phrase for you to savour over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Al-Grauniad latest

Today's haul is a mixture of the predictable and the bizarre.

There is naturally deep concern over whether poor Saddam will get a fair trial. People who should know better have been going around calling him a murderer.

And if found guilty he faces a death penalty. Well, I'm an abolitionist myself. Did you know that China executes around 2,000 people every year? Just thought I'd mention it.

Now for the bizarre. Reading Craig Murray's piece, I conclude that the long march through the institutions has not spared the diplomatic service. But are we not rather scraping the barrel here, Seumas? The government thinks it's banning a dangerous terrorist organization, Craig and Seumas think it's banning an organization that doesn't exist. So everybody's happy, right? Or is the point that if the Islamic Jihad Union did exist, we would want to make sure it was legal so we could commission an occasional column from it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Salman Rushdie

Sniping at Salman Rushdie in the name of pluralism is definitely not the way to Mr Grumpy's heart. Especially if the gentleman advising him to stick to writing novels is a vicar moonlighting as a columnist. So I hope the crop of letters in today's Guardian will give the Rev. Giles Fraser something to think about. If not I might just, in my capacity as an Ayatollah of Muscular Liberalism, have to issue a fatwa against the apostate dog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Goo goo goo

I wish I could come up with something a little more inspired, but really the only possible description of this one is political correctness gone MAD...

Can anyone offer me a legal opinion as to the amount of compensation I could claim for the 47 years of trauma I've suffered due to invasion of privacy in the maternity ward?

Germany calling

Back grumping after sundry distractions (work, holiday, expiring computer, work...).

There's been an election in Germany, you know. Read all about it in the Grauniad! First, predictably enough, Jonathan Steele's eulogy to the glorious victory of the post-Stalinist Left Party (errh, they got 8.7% of the vote; and currently the folk who look after the archives of the Stasi secret police are trawling through the files to see how many of the new intake of MPs were collaborators - could be 7, could be 'only' 3 or 4).

'While former communist parties in most of eastern Europe have bought into the neoliberal agenda, the PDS, which grew out of East Germany's former ruling party, consistently refused.' says Comrade Steele. Well, bully for them. Actually, the fact that the east has been able to live off subsidies from the west has relieved them of the necessity to work out a coherent economic policy of any kind. And the pay-off for all those subsidies? Eastern Germany has higher unemployment than neo-liberal Poland.

And now this. Interesting approach to international affairs coverage: ring up your leftie mate who happens to hold a university chair in the country concerned, and invite him to pontificate on the economic situation. Never mind if it has sod all to do with his discipline.

I can only assume that 'crisis, what crisis?' sounds a lot more convincing in cosy Tübingen than it does in Berlin where unemployment is running at something like 20%. If Prof. Harvie switched on the news last night he will know that VW are considering whether to build their new model at their original Wolfsburg plant or in Portugal. As production costs in Portugal are a cool €1000 per car lower than in Germany, it's something of a no-brainer as matters stand. Of course, labour costs at Wolfsburg could be reduced - and it might even happen if the works council and the mighty IG Metall union will agree. But then what happens to the domestic demand on which the Observer's veteran Keynesian William Keegan sets so much store?

Nobody disputes that German manufacturing industry still has tremendous strengths. But it's clear to the overwhelming majority of commentators here that they are a rapidly dwindling asset so long as the country remains stuck in a 1970s corporatist time-warp.

I really like Prof. Harvie's reference to 'Saxony's success'. HELLO - this is the state where the neo-Nazi NPD got nearly 10% of the vote last year.

But at least the Guardian preserves a vestige of sanity thanks to the magisterial Timothy Garton Ash.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"Study examines hate crime effect"

Great news for those bereaved, maimed or traumatized by the hate criminals of 7 July. £100,000 is going to be spent on finding out exactly how bad you feel! So long as you belong to an ethnic minority.

And you never know, a couple of quid may be left over to study the effects of verbal abuse and minor assaults.

Or am I missing something here?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Thing One and Thing Two

One for fellow Dr Seuss fans, on the point where liberalism (good) passes over into lunacy (bad).

Friday, July 22, 2005

al-Grauniad latest

Lost my breakfast again today. This time thanks to one Naima Bouteldja, who tells me Yusuf al-Qaradawi is 'widely regarded as a moderate and one of the most respected scholars in the Muslim world' - after all he only supports suicide bombings when they kill Jews, I mean Israelis.

Stand by for bleating about a 'shoot to kill policy'. I mean come on, if you've cornered a would-be suicide bomber on a crowded train, all you need to do is talk nicely to him and tell him you feel his pain...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ken: We Asked For It

Can the newt change his spots? It's back to mayoral business as usual in Londonistan, and smooth operator Ken is not going to throw away all those years spent cultivating the Muslim vote in order to tell them some home truths.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Common Sense

Having for once got out of bed the right side this morning, Mr G commends the measured and sensible words of four Muslim MPs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Iraq, Osama, etc., etc.

So, 24 kids blown up in Baghdad. That'll teach them to accept sweets from strangers, eh? Let's see how the moral equivalence brigade in the Guardian and Indie process this one.

I particularly appreciated the way yesterday's Independent enabled Daw'ud Abdullah Mannion of Sheffield to present Al-Qa'ida's surrender terms to its readers:-

Osama bin Laden is very clear in his demands: remove western support for these evil tyrants in the Muslim world, withdraw the occupying troops and the attacks on the west will stop. It really is that simple. Muslims around the world are rightfully angry with the west, including Britain, and whilst our unjust foreign
policy continues, some of that anger will boil over into evil acts such as those seen in London on Thursday.

Is there still a crime of treason on the statute book, or did it get abolished as inappropriate to a multi-cultural society? I'm against capital punishment, but, as somebody recently remarked to me, they hanged Lord Haw-Haw.

Monday, July 11, 2005

We Asked For It

From a letter in today's Independent:

From the 1950s to the 1990s Britain consistently derided and sneered at Arab nationalism, a reasonable patriotism that was secular, accepted the nation state, and was inclusive of non-Muslims. Right-wing politicians and professors ganged up to oppose Arab nationalism, hoping that thereby the ragged remnants of the British Empire would be given a further lease of life. They compared Nasser to Hitler.

Their amazing short-sightedness opened the way for the devout puritanical terror we see today. Their derision encouraged the shift of allegiance to the fundamentalists. They played a part in the blown-apart bus in Woburn Place. I bet they never apologise.

Now Karen Armstrong in the Guardian:

Bin Laden was not inspired by Wahhabism but by the writings of the Egyptian ideologue Sayyid Qutb, who was executed by President Nasser in 1966. Almost every fundamentalist movement in Sunni Islam has been strongly influenced by Qutb, so there is a good case for calling the violence that some of his followers commit "Qutbian terrorism." Qutb urged his followers to withdraw from the moral and spiritual barbarism of modern society and fight it to the death.

Western people should learn more about such thinkers as Qutb, and become aware of the many dramatically different shades of opinion in the Muslim world. There are too many lazy, unexamined assumptions about Islam, which tends to be regarded as an amorphous, monolithic entity. Remarks such as "They hate our freedom" may give some a righteous glow, but they are not useful, because they are rarely accompanied by a rigorous analysis of who exactly "they" are.

The story of Qutb is also instructive as a reminder that militant religiosity is often the product of social, economic and political factors. Qutb was imprisoned for 15 years in one of Nasser's vile concentration camps, where he and thousands of other members of the Muslim Brotherhood were subjected to physical and mental torture. He entered the camp as a moderate, but the prison made him a fundamentalist. Modern secularism, as he had experienced it under Nasser, seemed a great evil and a lethal assault on faith.

And we did nothing to stop the fascist bastard - er, progressive nationalist statesman, er... OK, I'm a bit hazy about the details, but I do appreciate that it's all my fault. And I'm really, really sorry.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Numbers game

Reading through today's Observer, I've already been informed twice in three articles that the Muslim Council of Great Britain has received 30,000 hate mails since Thursday. This may sound like the pot calling the kettle black coming from a blogger, but excuse me: 50-plus people dead, and these guys are spending their time reading and classifying 30,000 e-mails??

Friday, July 08, 2005


As part of its drive to assimilate yesterday’s events into its readers’ worldview, the Guardian is already fretting about a backlash against the British Muslim community, and quoting various Muslim spokespersons who seem determined to get their victimhood in first. Of course nobody ought to face abuse, let alone violence, because of their religion following the attacks, and I can understand Muslims fearing that the next few days are not going to be easy for them. But let’s just put things into perspective.

Obviously there are no figures yet, but it is virtually inevitable that significant numbers of Muslims are among the dead and injured. I don’t see the slightest grounds for fearing that British Muslims will suffer anything in the coming days and weeks remotely comparable with what they suffered yesterday.

Let’s also remember the true story of the 9/11 backlash. Muslims killed in the WTC: hundreds. Murders in America suspected of being motivated by hostility towards Muslims: three (one of the victims was a Sikh). Murders in Britain: nil. Mosque burnings in New York: nil. Mosque burnings in America: nil (here are some American Muslims whining regardless instead of celebrating American tolerance). Mosque burnings anywhere: nil.

Then the Americans went into Afghanistan to remove the regime that had played open house to al-Qaeda. That’s when the real backlash began. In a series of attacks on churches in 2002 more than 40 mostly poor and marginalized Pakistanis paid the ultimate price for sharing George Bush’s religion. And then there was Bali…

I don’t believe more than a tiny minority of British Muslims are potential terrorists. But I do know that 15,801 East Enders made it possible for George Galloway to re-enter Parliament on a platform of open support for the people who are orchestrating bomb attacks in Iraq on a daily basis. I think they need to be asked whether yesterday made them more or less sure that they did the right thing. And let’s not have fainting fits over the news that people have been rattling the railings of Finsbury Park Mosque. True, the mosque has been under new management since February and should be given a chance to make a fresh start, but before then it was al-Qaeda’s London chaplaincy, where bombers made contacts and Abu Hamza al-Masri preached the sermons which led to his appearance in court on Tuesday facing 10 criminal charges. The Guardian may feel it is holy ground, but personally I think I can understand people feeling just a little peeved.

OK, I've said my piece. For more, read Norman Geras.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

African Blues

A link to a sobering piece on Africa by one of the Guardian’s most sensible writers, Martin Kettle. This was written last week, before the G8 agreement on debt cancellation, before Ethiopian troops shot 36 demonstrators dead, and before the South African deputy president was sacked over a corruption scandal – all of which events only make it all the more pertinent.

Did you know that Africa has 100,000 millionaires? Or that every African, man, woman or child, now alive has received $5000 in aid? I didn’t. Of course probably precious few of the people who really need it have had their $5000-worth – that’s why there are so many millionaires.

Blair and Brown seem convinced, and to have convinced enough of their opposite numbers, that there has been a step change in the quality of governance, at least in the 18 countries selected for the first phase of debt relief. They had better be right, because otherwise this is just going to be another huge exercise in diverting money away from the people who really need it. You have to ask why, when governments have proved incapable of spending money wisely knowing they were going to have to pay it back, we should expect them to do any better with handouts which they get to keep.

Bob Geldof has done great things in the past, but we are now in the middle of what has become a fairly stomach-churning orgy of conspicuous compassion. What is really creepy about it is the way Africans are written out of the script as active participants in their own destiny. One way this happens is the typical Guardian reader’s conviction that everything and everybody are to blame for Africa’s plight, except for anything Africans do. The other side of it is the total lack of interest in things that Africans do as well as anyone else in the world. As a longstanding fan of African music I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that there wasn’t going to be a single African act at Live8.

It sounds appallingly trite, but nobody can change Africa unless Africans really want change.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Probably legal, or Two and a half cheers for David Aaronovitch

So the Grauniad has managed to purge one of its leading revisionist traitors. Mr Grumpy has identified strongly with his growing realization that there is at least as much illiberalism on his left as on his right, and has enjoyed watching him wind the comrades up. He has done sterling work patrolling the creepy interface between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, from which Sue Blackwell has emerged with her academic boycott of Bad Jews. His sign-off column is powerful stuff. OK, now we can read him in the Times, but it’s the Guardian that really needs him.

But Dave, why oh why have you dug yourself into such a hole on the Iraq question?

On 1 May we find David A defending Tony Blair against charges of lying, thus: “To spin the advice, as many journalists have done, as showing that Goldsmith was saying that war 'could be illegal' is disingenuousness worthy of the slickest weasel. The advice shows, crucially, that the Attorney General thought that UN Resolution 1441 probably was permissive of military action against Iraq, without further decision of the Security Council.”

Now I have no more regard than David A for the less sentient members of the anti-war lobby. But even those with a couple of brain cells to rub together are not likely to be impressed by the distinction between fighting a war that is probably legal and fighting one that is possibly illegal.

Don’t get me wrong. I rejoice that Saddam is behind bars, in or out of his underpants. I hope and pray that Iraq’s first elected government can establish its authority. And I think we are duty-bound to help it do so, if only because the alternative is so appalling. But looking at how we got to where we are now, I am more than ever convinced that Robin Cook got it spot on. Would even George Bush have taken the decision to invade if he had been able to foresee how it would turn out?

Sorry Dave, but probably legal just wasn’t good enough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

PC Plod

Today Mr G turns his ire on the writer of a letter in the Independent...

"Sir: So Graeme McLagan ("Shootings at record levels as teenagers turn to guns", 11 May) tells us "It is incredibly hard for the police to predict when, and under what circumstances, black gunmen will use their firearms". Worrying as this prospect is, I am at least slightly reassured by the knowledge that white gunmen are so safe and predictable."

Actually it's not really fair to single out someone who has made what actually is a neat point given the mindset he shares with most Indie and Guardian readers. But let's look at that story again. There were 49 shotings in London in April alone - compared with 12 in April last year. 35 were "black on black", including two of the three deaths.

What this means is that for young black males in London other young black males are a far more deadly threat than neo-Nazis and racist coppers put together.

As George Orwell wrote about Stalin's crimes, it's true even though the Daily Mail says it's true. Unlike, say, the murder of Stephen Lawrence, it's not a truth that lends itself to easy liberal moral posturing. But come on, these are young lives being meaninglessly thrown away. There's no simple solution, but there's no solution at all so long as we keep our heads buried in the sand for fear of infringing PC etiquette.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Saving children's lives

Just to draw the attention of anyone who happens by to a very important article that appeared in the Guardian recently. It's only accessible in Google's cache (not in the Guardian's archives - legal problems?) so catch it quickly.

Dr David Southall is a man who has dedicated his life to stopping sick people from torturing and killing their kids, and he has been vilified for his pains. Why?

One reason, it seems clear, is that the parents in question are often clever, manipulative and vindictive. Another is that the child protection “industry” is largely founded on the ideological premise that child abuse is an expression of patriarchy. Murderous mothers just don’t fit into this world-view (of which, ironically, Beatrix Campbell herself has been a prominent promoter – she has been quoted as saying “Sexual abuse of children now presents society with the ultimate crisis of patriarchy”).

Most fundamentally, I suspect, we clearly have a deep psychological resistance to seeing mothers as threatening. Stepmothers yes, real ones no. Of course that isn’t a problem in itself, and for most of us, happily, it fits with the facts. But if we allow this instinct to blind us to the evidence in these cases, we are abandoning the children of whom Dr Southall says “if your number one person doesn't want you around, doesn't love you, hates you, harms you, then you've had it. There's no hope. The worst the world can do to you isn't as bad as this”.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Dummies and Galloway

How could we have got Saddam out without going to war with him? The following appeared in a letter in yesterday's Independent:-

"In 2000 the Muslim Peace Fellowship suggested a five-point plan involving support for Iraqi civil society, a general Middle Eastern arms embargo, and wider reforms. In the US, Sojourner magazine outlined at least two blueprints for largely nonviolent strategic campaigns. None of these strategies could have guaranteed perfection, but their outcomes could hardly have been worse than the catastrophe which actually transpired."

Er, what civil society? The free press? The opposition political parties? The independent judiciary? The basic precondition for the existence of a civil society was fulfilled when Saddam was overthrown. As in the case of Hitler's Germany.

A general arms embargo against Saddam would have been a fine idea, and perhaps the Muslim Peace Fellowship has some ideas as to how Russia and China could have been persuaded to take part.

And perhaps we could have campaigned for Saddam's secret police to show greater courtesy towards the public.

Sorry, but absolute moral positions such as pacifism can only be held honestly by those prepared to admit that they will stick to them regardless of the consequences. Invading Iraq has had good and bad consequences. Not invading would have had good and bad consequences, chief among the latter being that Saddam would probably have remained in power for the rest of his life, and that if the majority of Iraqis had ever risen up against him the resulting civil war would have made the present situation look like a picnic. If we want to take sides we have to take responsibility for the bad with the good.

PS A good one, too, from Jonathan Steele in yesterday's Guardian. Basically the American troops should pull out of Iraq because they're doing such a terrible job, and the British troops should pull out because they're doing such a good job that they're not needed. "Pulling foreign troops out would almost certainly improve Iraq's security, since much of the violence is directed against the occupation" says Jonathan. So let's not worry too much about the hundreds of Iraqis who have lost their lives in the last few weeks because they supported the wrong party, worshipped at the wrong kind of mosque, attended the wrong person's funeral, or wanted to serve the country's first ever elected government as police officers. Just get those Yanks out, and the insurgents will show us what warm and wonderful human beings they were all along.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Habemus Papam

A word about the new Pope. Mr Grumpy is not a Roman Catholic, let alone a cardinal, and if he was a cardinal it is distinctly unlikely that he would have cast his vote for Joseph Ratzinger. But does he really deserve the blanket hostility he got from British press over the weekend of his inauguration? A trawl of the “serious” papers produced the following.

One paper is portraying him as trying to encourage a schism in the Anglican Communion – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever apart from the claim by a leader of a breakaway group of traditionalist Anglicans that he has talked to the then Cardinal Ratzinger.

A second paper is accusing him of trying to cover up a child sex scandal. Now of course such matters should be taken very seriously. But there appears not to be the slightest evidence that he condones priests abusing children. The issue seems at most to be whether he showed bad judgment in attempting to retain the Church’s jurisdiction over a particular case. It’s interesting to note, incidentally, how many liberal journalists simultaneously believe (a) if a woman chooses to have an abortion it’s nobody’s business but her own, and (b) if a priest touches up a choirboy it’s their business and everybody else’s.

Meanwhile a third paper is splitting hairs over the exact date in 1945 on which the Pope deserted from the Wehrmacht. For heaven’s sake, he had just turned eighteen, and had lived under the Nazi terror since he was six.

Mr G would now like to reveal exclusively that the Pope’s favourite hobby is clubbing baby seals (sorry, bad taste, but really...)

Friday, April 15, 2005

German grumping

Today Mr Grumpy vents his disgust with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany, who yesterday called for the lifting of the European Union’s embargo on arms sales to China. This at a time when China is threatening to invade Taiwan – an invasion which would be infinitely less justifiable than the invasion of Iraq which Schröder rightly opposed.

When you’ve got five million plus unemployed on your hands, no doubt selling a few tanks to a dictatorship is an easier option than making serious attempts to reform your economy. At least foreign minister Joschka Fischer (a Green) wants strings attached to any resumption of arms sales. So the Greens get Mrs Grumpy’s vote next time.

By the way, have you spotted the connection with the last posting? China is a big chum of the Sudan.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Your starter for 10

In response to overwhelming popular demand, Mr Grumpy agrees to begin his campaign of curmudgeonliness. The honour of being our first target falls to... yes, Mr Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State at the UK Government's Department for International Development. He is to be found writing to the London Independent at

Mr Benn is, we believe, the son of the famous left-winger Tony Benn. From the fact that Tony Blair gave him a job it will be obvious that he is several light years to the right of his dad. However he seems to have fully inherited Benn Senior's skill in dodging an awkward question.

In a letter about the Darfur conflict in the Sudan Mr Benn was challenged by Becky Tinsley of Waging Peace ( to stop "shifting responsibility away from the National Islamic Front regime"; he replies saying she is "wrong on a number of counts". First of these is "The truth is that no one knows how many people have died in Darfur." Well, what is your best guess, Mr Benn? 70,000 as suggested by the WHO, or several hundred thousand as critics have claimed?

Then comes something truly staggering. Mr Benn refers to the UK's role in brokering a peace agreement in the separate conflict in southern Sudan, after 20 years of war and two million deaths. And, yes, Mr Benn is clearly proud of this. He must think the international community's inaction over the genocide in Rwanda was a tremendous success - after all, the death toll there was only 800,000. Meanwhile, the people in Darfur just have to wait until the body count reaches seven digits and then the rest of the world might decide to do a bit more than slap the Khartoum regime's wrist.

Next off, a nice bit of evasion. As evidence that the UK is taking a political approach to the situation, Mr B cites support for a Security Council resolution "introducing a sanctions regime against those responsible for the violence in Darfur." Well, here is Security Council resolution no. 1591: It is addressed to all parties in the conflict, and the most it offers in the way of specific condemnation of the Sudanese government is Point 6 which demands that it "immediately cease conducting offensive military flights in and over the Darfur region". So by hiding behind the resolution Mr B neatly avoids the challenge thrown out by Ms Tinsley to name and shame the Khartoum regime.

His final point is that the UK has supported the African Union mission in Darfur. Well, isn't that precisely Ms Tinsley's criticism: he has plenty to say about the UK's contributions to humanitarian relief but nothing about the political roots of the crisis.

So there you have it. Expect the Sudan to be about 497th in the list of issues in the UK General Election campaign, and expect zero improvement if some freak of nature brings Michael Howard to No. 10. Can anyone convince Mr Grumpy that it's worth voting?

Sunday, April 03, 2005