Friday, 29 August 2008

Not just the Lego Builder's Club

So apparently, it's illegal to "profess" that one belongs to a proscribed organisation and what's more, it has been since the 1970's. So just by saying, "I'm a member of the 17 November Revolutionary Organisation," I could get into heaps of trouble. Maybe if I removed the quote marks from that, I'd actually be professing rather than merely pretending to profess? Let's see...

I'm part of the Abu Sayyaf Group, and have a note to prove it. (Although according to the Home Office list, the "precise aims of Abu Sayyaf Group are unclear".)

On Tuesdays, I attend meetings of Al Gurabaa ("Al Gurabaa is a splinter group of Al-Muajiroon" - Al-Muajiroon don't seem to be on the list themselves though. Doesn't matter - I'm not a member of Al-Muajiroon [1].)

I did join Revolutionary Peoples' Liberation Party - Front (or Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi - Cephesi) for a while, but being a spliter-of-a-splinter-of-a-splinter, they ran out of beer waaaay to soon.

Coming a bit closer to home, I was briefly a member of Cumann na mBan until my wig fell off and someone pointed out how deep my voice was.

All of which begins to sound like a challenge: how many proscribed organisations can one person belong to? Is there a record? Professing membership of ALL of them would be relatively easy (if illegal), given that there's only around 60-odd in total. But to actually BE a member of all 60 - to have a wallet with 60 membership cards, to know 60 secret handshakes, to have 60 lapel badges - that'd be way cool. Maybe a good stunt for Mark Thomas now that SOCPA's on the way out?

To be serious for a minute, proscribing groups is pretty serious. Although it can be as mild as "ostracism" according to the OED, in this context it's more like declaring them enemies of the state, saying these people have given up any right to exist. To arrest somebody for killing, shooting, bombing, gassing etc. civilians without an EXTREMELY good reason, is of course a Good Thing. If you kill because there's a voice in your head telling you to, that's sad & troubling & probably need psychiatric intervention - but you still need arresting. But if you call that voice "God" or justify the killing politically, then what's the difference? Murder is murder. Calling a murderer a terrorist is just glorifying terrorism, isn't it?

I was also a member of the Lego Builder's Club, c.1980-1982.

[1] Spelled the way the Home Office do, Google can only find Al-Muajiroon as a proscribed organisation. Wikipedia has Al-Muhajiroun as nasty but defunct. So panic over.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Tim Spicer, OBE

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire Colonel Tim Spicer. Well, finding him shouldn't be too hard: he's here, staring moodily into the middle distance. Hiring him may cost you a few bob though.

According to my faded copy of the Grauniad, Aegis got paid nearly 300 million US dollars to run a massive primate army in Iraq. Imagine how many chimpanzees, monkeys and baboons you could hire for 300 million dollars worth of bananas... Now, bananas cost 77p per kilo from Tesco's and the exchange rate is currently a shade over 50p a dollar. So I calculate that $293m buys 192,045,766 kilos of bananas. Say 2 kilos per day per monkey, for 10 years of primate security, you could get over 25,000 monkeys. I know Iraqi insurgents are tough, but I'd certainly run away from 25000 well-motivated monkeys.

Or maybe the Archbishops of York and Canterbury could split it, getting $150 million each? Those crooks could be handy in a fight I suppose, though why primate armies are so important are beyond me.

Much as I applaud loyalty to ones staff, standing by people convicted of murder and insisting that they were just doing their job doesn't endear Mr Spicer to me. Nor does selling arms to extremly unstable countries in Africa and the Pacfic. Suing said governments when they fail to cough up is really taking the piss, though I see that Julius Chan has since been re-elected as an MP in Papua New Guinea, so neither side really wins there.

Just to clarify, the Oxford English Dictionary says: "Mercenary (n) A person who works merely for money or other material reward; a hireling. In later use ... a person whose actions are motivated primarily by personal gain, often at the expense of ethics. ...Chiefly and now only: spec. a soldier paid to serve in a foreign army or other military organization." Sounds like our Mr Spicer.

Puuting all of that to one side, $293m buys you some mighty final legal representation, from those lovely people at Schillings (so called because that's how much they'd sell their grandmother for - boom boom!). Some former ambassador wins University Challenge and later says he's going to publish a book about Tim Spicer, mercenaries, and suchlike, and Mr Spicer runs to his lawyers who start pulling hair and scratching.

Anyway, how the hell can a mercenary get an OBE? Or perhaps I'm being naive. But if we can take back Mugabe's knighthood, why not Mr Spicer's trinket?

PS Bonus not-made-up-fact: Aegis was apparently underwritten (in part) by Frederick Forsyth, which is just perfect. What kind of mercenary army would have been underwritten by JK Rowling? Jeffrey Archer? Roger Hargreaves? ("Mr Shooty stopped and searched an unarmed teenager, then shot him in the back as he ran away. Naughty Mr Shooty!")

PPS And don't forget those bananas would get you 1.5 million Tesco Clubcard points, which, among many other options, would buy you 3.5 million Air Miles, which would be enough to fly the monkeys and their bananas pretty much anywhere.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Recursive Schisming

In the beginning, the established Christian denomination in Scotland was the Church of Scotland. Lots of people were unhappy and left to form the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Frankly, I find it hard to get excited about why they split, but it was something about the relationship between church and state. Then, the Free Church of Scotland merged with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland (in 1900) to form the United Free Church of Scotland. Or rather, most of it did. Some congregations insisted on remaining outside, apparently retaining the name "Free Church of Scotland". Being rather small in number, they became (perhaps affectionately) known as the "Wee Frees". Around the same time however, an even smaller group of congregations (one minister, actually) split from the Free Church to form the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. These are, of course, known as the Wee Wee Frees. As far as I can tell, each sect spends most of the time pointing out why all the other indistinguishable sects are wrong. Forget big questions like whether transubstantiation is "real" or not; these guys bicker about whether you can get the bus to chapel on a Sunday.

Personally, I want to join the Wee Wee Frees, just so I can then split and form the Wee Wee Wee Frees. I shall declare a new doctrine, that of recursive schisming, whereby members must evangelise and convert others to the true beliefs of the Wee Wee Wee Frees... and then split to form the Wee^(n+1) Frees. The prophesies of this newly-made-up religion will only be fulfilled when everyone on earth is a member of their own sect.

At this point, I was going to make some obvious Pythonesque joke about Judea, but a careless Google-search took me to a Wikipedia entry headed:
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Not to be confused with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command
At which point satire becomes pointless and life a little bit depressing.