Bush to Blair: sorry about the weapons

The Bush administration is set to drop its efforts to secure British and Australian exemptions from its complex arms export laws.

Dear Tony,

How you doing? I just wanted to write to fill you in on developments on our shared goal on arms exports waivers to get you Brits easier access to our military technology.

I’m gonna be straight with you Tony. It’s not going well. See, we got this fella Henry Hyde in Congress. He’s a real cranky old guy but he chairs the House international relations committee and he’s blocking our efforts to sell you some hot weapons. It’s a shame because I’ve seen what these babies can do and it’s awesome. Your boys won’t have seen anything like it – except when we fire on them by accident.

Anyway, Henry Hyde has got it into his head that you might sell the technology to China, or worse still, France. I don’t know why he thinks this. It could be the fact that you supported lifting the EU’s Chinese arms embargo until you “discovered” China was still a touch hostile to Taiwan. Apparently, that came as something of a surprise to you.

Don’t think we haven’t played hardball. We gave Hyde a stiff talking to and published our objections. I could threaten to veto the bill but I know you wouldn’t want to be a burden to me. Don’t think our people aren’t grateful for your support in Iraq. It is just we prefer to express our gratitude in words. Anyway, what’s a little red tape on defence exports between friends?

I know this is an issue for you and that some folks at home say you get nothing back for your unwavering support. But that’s just not true. You get listened to and hey, we gave you that congressional medal, which, by the way, you might collect. Congress does kinda regard this as an honour.

The American people trust you. They trust you enough to let your troops get killed in Basra. They just don’t trust you not to sell our best kit to the Chinese. I told Hyde that you had given your word on it, but for some reason he didn’t feel that was enough of a guarantee. Sorry, but the main thing is, I tried.

Do send my regards to your ex-ambassador and tell him I loved his book, especially the bits about that tongue-tied deputy of yours who keeps messing up his words. What a dope. Laura sends her love to Cherie and asks if she got Cliff Richard’s autograph.

All the best, George.

Coursework wanted

The government is to crack down on parents and children cheating on their GCSE coursework and may issue new guidance for parents and teachers.

Dear parent,

I am writing to help clear up the confusion surrounding what is or is not permitted when helping your children with their GCSE coursework.

Reading through their coursework is fine; indeed, an interest in your children’s work is positively encouraged. Making observations about untidy sentences or spelling mistakes is also OK. Writing the entire essay for them is frowned upon, as is getting your secretary or work experience trainee to do it.

Also, on balance we prefer you not to buy someone else’s work for your child to copy out. The internet is a valuable research tool but you should be aware that eBay is not a recognised educational website.

Saving energy

As Americans begin to face up to what one consultancy has called the new age of energy insecurity there is little evidence that they are ready to give up gas-guzzling cars.

It seems that the sports utility vehicle speaks to the rugged, macho self-image – unlike in Britain where it is the vehicle of choice for well-to-do women facing the wild terrain of the school run or the dash to Waitrose.

What is needed is a clear set of policy initiatives to persuade Americans that it is simply no longer cool or manly to drive a great big Hummer. The market may ultimately do the job as petrol prices creep higher, but for more effective long-term change, a campaign of value readjustment is needed.

Hollywood is doing its bit. One new thriller about oil has been part- financed by a company that uses entertainment to drive social change. But more could be done. Male role models must be forced into leading the way. Vin Diesel, the high-octane movie action-hero, should be renamed Vin Hybrid, in an attempt to bolster the credibility of green cars. Also the phrase “high-octane” should no longer be used in a positive context about films. Instead explosive action films might be described as “fuel efficient”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger should surrender his Hummers for a Prius, while perhaps the National Rifle Association could seek a tie-up with Smart cars – just as soon as they come with an elk rack as standard.

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