Saturday, February 11, 2006 

Sun-watch: Ridiculous accusations of cowardice.

It looks like the critics predictions are coming true. We seem to have at last reached the stage of trial by media. The Sun, in an incredibly cynical move, asked Sion Jenkins, tried 3 times over the murder of his foster-daughter Billie-Jo, to take a polygraph test. He rightly refused. Cue the hollers of protest from both the newspaper and his ex-wife that he must therefore have something to hide.

To start with, polygraph tests are notoriously unreliable and have been condemned time and again by many eminent scientists. Then there's the small matter that Sion Jenkins has been through 9 years of trials. He was originally convicted, appealed against the decision and was denied a re-trial. He appealed again, this time with new evidence suggesting that the blood droplets which were found on his clothes were breathed out by Billie-Jo as he cradled her following the attack which left her with a huge hole in her skull, from being beaten with a metal tent peg. The judges accepted his application for a re-trial based on the new evidence, but the jury in the first retrial failed to reach a verdict. Tried once more, the new jury again failed to reach a majority verdict. He has been released, and the crown has decided that no new evidence will be presented against him.

Of course, this brings up the unpleasant question of who actually did kill Billie-Jo. The only other suspect, a mentally ill man who was apparently seen in the area around the time that she was killed has an alibi, according to the police. Nearly every newspaper yesterday published allegations by Lois Jenkins, Sion's first wife, that he had beaten both her and the other children they had had together. Mr Jenkins had also lied about his CV in order to get the job of headmaster at a local secondary school. Both judges in the retrials felt that those allegations were not relevant to the trial, and so were not presented to the juries. What is not known is whether such evidence would have convinced either jury of Jenkins' guilt, but what has to be remembered is that the jury heard all the evidence; the media did not, and neither did the average man or commentator in the street. For the Sun and Jenkins wife to then accuse him of cowardice for refusing to take a polygraph when he has spent 9 years in prison for a crime he has always denied he committed, and especially when two juries found him not guilty by way of not being able to reach a verdict, is incredibly low and close to accusation of guilt by media.

The sad fact is that no one comes out of the whole tragic story well. Sion Jenkins seems to be ready to tell his story to the highest bidder, as is his ex-wife. The police are left with being accused of incompetence. Both of Billie-Jo's natural parents, of whom the mother was a heavy drinker and the father was in and out of prison, are also trying to sell their story, if they haven't already. Maggie Coster, Billie-Jo's aunt attacked Sion Jenkins as he left the court, punching him repeatedly in the face. After the non-verdict had been announced, she shouted from the public gallery: "It's not over Jenkins you fucking child killer, everyone knows it. She was a 13-year-old kid, you fucking bible bashing prat, it ain't over." She later also said: "We want justice for her, revenge is sweet." Then there's the media, of which some sections seem to have made up their mind about what happened.

All of this ignores the simple fact that a 13-year-old was brutally murdered. While Maggie Coster claims she wants justice, she in the same sentence wants revenge. Revenge is not justice. In the melee and aftermath, all are trying to say that they cared the most about the poor girl, all while grabbing the cash on offer from a complicit media which loves such a tragic story. Compared to former miscarriages of justice, which restored your faith in the system and the media which often brought the cases to the attention of the nation, the only thing this leaves is an incredibly sour taste in the mouth.

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Friday, February 10, 2006 

Yet more brutality at Guantanamo Bay.

The US government really is in a mess over Guantanamo Bay. Described as the "gulag of our times" by Amnesty International, even Tony Blair has called for it to be closed down. With no sign of any the alleged al-Qaida members being held there being brought to trial any time in the near future, it was no surprise that over 100 of the detainees there had gone on hunger strike. This being the caring and compassionate Bush administration, they weren't going to let these evildoers get away with their crimes so easily, oh no:

The Pentagon faced a groundswell of protest about its treatment of detainees at Guantánamo yesterday after it emerged that a hunger strike had been broken by force-feeding inmates and putting them in restraints.

Five months after inmates at Guantánamo began the strike to protest against their indefinite detention at the US naval base only four remain on hunger strike. Three of those are being force-fed with tubes through the nose, a Pentagon spokesman said.

He denied charges that the Pentagon was trying to break the hunger strike by punishing the protesters. "They are not trying to reduce the hunger strike, but they are going to feed people to protect life," he said. The feeding was administered by medical professionals in "a humane and compassionate manner" using the same process as in civilian prisons.

Humane and compassionate. Like being locked up without charge for what's now been four years. But wait, could it be that the pentagon spokesman wasn't exactly being truly honest?

New details have emerged of how the growing number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed through tubes pushed down their nasal passages into their stomachs to keep them alive.

They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor, seen by The Observer.

'Experience teaches us' that such symptoms must be expected 'whenever nasogastric tubes are used,' says the affidavit of Captain John S Edmondson, commander of Guantánamo's hospital. The procedure - now standard practice at Guantánamo - 'requires that a foreign body be inserted into the body and, ideally, remain in it.' But staff always use a lubricant, and 'a nasogastric tube is never inserted and moved up and down. It is inserted down into the stomach slowly and directly, and it would be impossible to insert the wrong end of the tube.' Medical personnel do not insert nasogastric tubes in a manner 'intentionally designed to inflict pain.'

It is painful, Edmonson admits. Although 'non-narcotic pain relievers such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient, sometimes stronger drugs,' including opiates such as morphine, have had to be administered.

Thick, 4.8mm diameter tubes tried previously to allow quicker feeding, so permitting guards to keep prisoners in their cells for more hours each day, have been abandoned, the affidavit says. The new 3mm tubes are 'soft and flexible'.

Although some prisoners have had to be tied down while being force-fed, 'only one patient' has had to be immobilised with a six-point restraint, and 'only one' passed out. 'In less than 10 cases have trained medical personnel had to use four-point restraint in order to achieve insertion.' Edmondson claims the actual feeding is voluntary. During Ramadan, tube-feeding takes place before dawn.

Article 5 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration, which US doctors are legally bound to observe through their membership of the American Medical Association, states that doctors must not undertake force-feeding under any circumstances. Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at Queen Elizabeth's hospital in Birmingham, is co-ordinating opposition to the Guantánamo doctors' actions from the international medical community. 'If I were to do what Edmondson describes in his statement, I would be referred to the General Medical Council and charged with assault,' he said.

With around 500 men being held at Guantanamo, including 7 British residents, it's highly likely that are a number of them are being wrongly held. There have been releases from time to time, but these have only been of a small number, where it's either been established that they were of no threat or wrongly abducted. Yet the US government continues to make no efforts to actually try those who are being held there. Indeed, Bush has denied the inmates attempts to file habeas corpus petitions. Any intelligence that was originally gleaned from the detainees has by now undoubtedly dried up. Can the Bush administration not see the damage which the camp gives to its worldwide image? Despite all its infringments of international law, Guantanamo is the one which will continue to haunt it for the longest along with Iraq, unless it does the decent thing.

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Lib Dems in meltdown!

The extraordinary by-election win for the Liberal Democrats in Dunfermline, with Willie Rennie turning a 11,500 Labour majority into a win for his party by 1,800 votes shows that the scandals and heartaches of the Lib Dems over the last month have not by any means finished the party. By contrast, in a constituency in which Gordon Brown has a house and where he himself campaigned for Labour 4 times, it makes clear just how much of a threat the Lib Dems still are to Labour.

While the turnout in the seat dropped dramatically and it seems that local rather than national issues played a major part, there's little doubting that many commentators have been far too quick to write off the party just because of the election of David Cameron and the near-coup which deposed Charles Kennedy. Last night's Question Time, which featured the 3 candidates for the leadership in a excellent debate, with Chris Huhne and Simon Hughes by far being the most impressive, (although Chris Huhne wasn't very modest in mentioning he was the apparent leader judging by a YouGov poll commissioned by a friend of his, Hughes getting bitch-slapped by Dimbleby for having quotes criticising Huhne in his leaflets and website, and Campbell being less than honest about his reasons for not wanting Kennedy to go on the anti-war march) must be a sign of things to come. Whoever wins the leadership election needs to keep the team together, and if and when Mark Oaten and Charles Kennedy are ready to return, they must be allowed to. The opposition of the Lib Dems to the most contentious and knee-jerk reactions of this Labour government have marked them out as the real opposition. As long as they continue to ignore the urge to lurch rightwards as both Labour and the Conservatives have, then the possibility of a hung parliament at the next election becomes more likely. If such a thing occurs, then the Liberals should go into a coalition with Labour with at least one key demand; proportional representation. Yes, it's a long way off and a lot can yet change. But the Lib Dems are now in the position to change British politics for good, and for the better from the dominance of the tyranny of the two-party state.

(Just for the record, I don't affiliate myself with any party. I voted for Labour (the local MP had opposed the Iraq war, although he was persuaded by the whips to abstain on the actual vote, a mistake he admitted to, and control orders) at the last election in an attempt to keep the Tory out. The Tory won. I voted Green at the European elections. What I do believe in is an opposition to what up till recently has been a Labour party that has ruled almost by decree, and the Lib Dems are by far the most effective opposition and the largest grouping in parliament which reflects my rather eclectic views.)

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Thursday, February 09, 2006 

Cryptome visited over lists of alleged MI6 officers.

FBI Special Agents Matthew J. Bertron and John Iannuzzi of the Criminal Division of the FBI New York office visited Cryptome today.

The agents said the British Government had asked FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to seek information on the source of lists of MI6 officers published by Cryptome:

1. (13 May 1999)

2. (21 August 2005)

3. (27 August 2005)

4. (28 August 2005)

We pointed out the files themselves provide information on the list origins -- list 1 from the Web; lists 2 and 3 from anonymous sources; and list 4 compiled by Cryptome from the other three. An agent asked if we would provide emails of the anonymous sources of 2 and 3. We said no, they were destroyed immediately. He asked if we would tell if we knew the sources. We said no.

We asked about the procedure for HMG to request help in the US. For information like that sought with this visit, a request is made to FBI HQ, then passed to the FBI NY office. Such actions are taken as a courtesy to foreign governments unless crime is involved. If a crime is involved then US Attorneys handle the requests.

The agents said that the FBI had no basis for an investigation of Cryptome, that nothing about the site is illegal in the US.

Both agents showed credentials. They acknowledged credentials can be spoofed. They asked for a birth date and SS number, to "verify the interview took place." The agents were courteous, were dressed casually, and thanked us for our time. Took less than half an hour.

The meeting took place in our building public lobby, passersby welcome to hear and peer.

We said we'd publish a report of visit and name them. Both said they rather we didn't name them. We asked to take their photographs for publication. They said no.

For a list first published in 1999, it sure took the spooks a long time to get their friends in the FBI to pay a visit.

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Those cartoons: No more new laws.

The whole furore surrounding the cartoons of Muhammad keeps getting more and more complicated. While the Danish Imams which toured the middle east stirring up outrage took 3 other much more offensive images with them, which may well have had an impact on those now protesting, it's also been revealed that the man who authorised the cartoons travelled to the US to meet Daniel Pipes, a notorious neo-conservative.

Yesterday Imams met to demand yet more new laws, probably because they're not satisfied with the already much boosted incitement to religious hatred bill which passed through parliament last monday:

Faiz Siddiqi, the MAC's national convenor, said: "What is being called for is a change of culture. In any civilised society, if someone says, 'don't insult me', you do not, out of respect for them. Europe has a history of not treating minorities properly. The Holocaust is an example of that. The imagery being used today is the same kind that Hitler used against the Jews. Look where that ended up: in world war."

He said committee members would seek to meet editors and the PCC. Newspapers have so far declined to publish the offending cartoons. Mr Siddiqi called for that approach to be formalised.

"The PCC's code is voluntary. It is a benchmark of civility. It is a social contract. Why could it not be extended to cover Muslims?"

This would be the same Holocaust which the Muslim Council of Britain continues to boycott the remembrance of, because they feel that it's too "exclusive". The casual comparison with Nazi Germany does not really work. The Nazis used the electoral system to gain power, at the same time spreading fear on the streets and smearing the Communists for the Reichstag fire, then abolished it. Freedom of speech was stamped out, and propaganda was drilled into the people on a daily basis. None of those things are happening in the main European countries. What has instead happened has been a series of overreactions - first to the original cartoons and then the so-called "solidarity" response of other countries press in reprinting them. No newspaper in this country has reprinted the cartoons, and that's the way it should stay. There is no need for the PCC code to be extended. It should also not cover Muslims, in that it also does not cover any other religions sensibilities.

The leader of Hezbollah today also called for new laws to be passed by the European parliament, which would ban the insulting of Muhammad. Such advice should be ignored. The man who seems to have put it best is Kofi Annan. Freedom of speech does entail "exercising responsibility and judgement", but that is up to the person, not governments, mobs or protestors to realise.

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Express-watch: Crusade against death tax!

The Daily Express isn't noted for its sensible careful intellectual thought process. That's probably the reason why it still thinks Princess Diana was murdered. It therefore comes as no surprise to discover on today's front page that the Sexpress has started a "crusade" against inheritance tax, or as right wingers prefer to call it, the death tax.

You'd think the obvious thing to do if inheritance tax is hitting the poor and hard-working would be to raise the threshold on the amount of income on which it is triggered. No, that would be far too obvious or sane. Instead, it needs to be abolished. It makes you wonder if in fact Dirty Desmond is making plans for his retirement and has realised that as he paid himself £52 million last year, that if he dies that's going to make a severe dent in his son's bank account. Either that, or he's thinking about the poor models that he employs on his range of high-quality soft porn channels. No, somehow that doesn't seem as likely.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006 

Abu Hamza: The bullshit and the reality.

As could be expected following the conviction of Abu Hamza, the tabloids, BBC and the government have realised they can get some mileage out of this. For the Sun and the Mail, it means that every word they published about him before was true. The BBC did a similarly sensational report, just as they did after the ricin plot which never was. The government has used it to once again call for support for their "glorification" part of the terror bill.

The Sun has to be congratulated most of all though for their brilliant exclusive that he cheated on his wife in the 80s with a prostitute. The exposure of his relationship with her led to him becoming a religious fanatic, although the paper neglects to mention how or why. The same article mentions that the 7/7 attackers visited the mosque, although police have since said that they have no evidence that they did, and seeing as they and the spooks have had 6 months to follow up all of their movements, they should know. The paper has conveniently put up a number of its front pages on him, which brings us to the next charge. The "Bomb Big Ben Book" was actually a single paragraph in a 5,000 page manual produced at the time of the Afghan-Russia war, which is now regarded as a "terrorist" manual, even though at the time the muhjadein was being funded by the US.
Patrick Searle, an author and former Middle East correspondent for the Observer gave evidence saying that he had seen the manual on the shelves of academics, and that it included material provided by the CIA. Yet another article details all the terrorists which apparently visited the Finsbury Park mosque. Again without providing evidence, it names the four 7/7 bombers, which is dealt with above. It also mentions another person involved in the "ricin" plot (despite all the others charged were acquitted, and that an informer on them in Morocco has never been tried), where there was no ricin, where the recipe for creating it would not have worked anyway, and that their plans to smear it on doorknobs would not have worked because ricin cannot be absorbed through the skin - it has to be injected, ala the infamous umbrella assassination. They also say Bourgass was "despatched to London by his al-Qaida masters" even though there was never any al-Qaida link proved with his ridiculous plot. And then there's "terrorism expert" Neil Doyle:

“There’s a jihad army in this country and that’s thanks to Hamza and others like him.

“This country still faces the grim prospect of more suicide bombings carried out by people who have been inspired by his passion for violence.”

Again without providing any evidence, and ignoring the fact that spooks are now monitoring anyone who so much as squeaks what can be felt "extremist". The so-called "hands-off" approach is long over.

All the above is great, but it doesn't get any better than the Sun's leader on the subject:

SEVEN YEARS for running a viper’s nest of terror linked to every major atrocity from 9/11 to our 7/7.

SEVEN YEARS for defiling a holy mosque and turning it into a murderous al-Qaeda training camp.

SEVEN YEARS for recruiting impressionable young Muslims, some of whom went on to kill or attempt murder.

Evil Abu Hamza connived at mass slaughter. His sentence should be TWICE as long.

Yet he will be eligible for parole in just over three years - with more than a year lopped off for his time on remand.

This rabid peddler of hate could be free to vote at the next election.

The most shocking fact is that Hamza would never be inside at all — but for Sun readers.

For three long years, this newspaper has campaigned relentlessly for justice.

There was plenty of horrific evidence.

# In 2003, police raided Finsbury Park mosque, a byword for peddling anti-Western bile.

# They found a terror manual, blank-firing pistols, CS spray, a stun gun, knives, gas masks, nuclear protective suits and forged passports and driving licences.

# Police also recorded tapes of his despicable sermons, preaching terrorism, homicidal violence and hatred.

The damage, said the judge, was “simply incalculable”.

“You used your authority to encourage your audiences to believe it gave rise to a duty to murder,” he said.

Yet while Hamza was acting as a recruiting sergeant for Osama bin Laden, police treated him like a harmless pantomime clown.

It took TWO more years and the fear of a Twin Towers-style outrage in London to tip police into action.

Misguided policy — denounced by our incredulous allies — allowed suspects to stay free so they could be kept under supervision.

This licence to roam was exploited by Hamza whose terrorist “sleepers” spread like spores on the wind.

Experts fear the cast of potential suicide bombers in Britain has mushroomed.

Hamza’s manic lawyer predictably rounded on the jury for turning Hamza into a “martyr” of Islam.

To their credit, the Muslim Council of Britain wanted no truck with this rubbish. “Abu Hamza was allowed to bask in the limelight and seemed to relish using inflammatory language,” they said.

“We respect the verdicts today.”

Hamza now risks extradition to America on more serious charges.

No one must stand in the way.

Ah yes, it was the Sun wot did it. Apart from their rather curious claims to have brought him to justice (despite the security services being in constant contact with him, even relying on him to inform on those even more extreme than himself and MI5 having a mole inside the mosque for two years), the Sun seems most concerned that he could vote at the next election. When referring to his sentence of seven years, the paper doesn't feel that it's worth mentioning that it's incredibly likely that he'll be deported to the US at the end of his sentence, because that would of course ruin their outrage, leaving it instead till right to the end, when it demands that "NO ONE MUST STAND IN THE WAY", probably because he'll be sentenced to life imprisonment. It's also worth remembering Nick Griffin, who was acquitted on race hate charges last week. If he had been convicted, and he still might be, would he have got 7 years? I somehow doubt it.

The most craven reaction though has to be that of the government and especially Blair, who following on from Charles Clarke today demanded that David Cameron drop his opposition to the glorification clause, even though it would have a chilling effect on activists and the outspoken, who have never incited murder. Of course, that Hamza was convicted under current laws and that government lawyers have made clear that the protesters at the weekend could also be, doesn't matter. The law obviously needs to be "strengthened" and groups need to be banned, even though Hizb-u-Tahrir, one of the groups set to be outlawed held an entirely peaceful protest at the weekend and is committed to peaceful activism.

Abu Hamza was a man filled with hate. He preached murder, indoctrinated the vulnerable and has been linked to acts of terrorism. But he should have been dealt with sooner. The security services apparently used him as a "honeytrap" to monitor many other extremists, which ended once 9/11 happened. It then took two further years for them to raid the Finsbury Park mosque, which they were reasonably afraid of doing for provoking a backlash. What happened was that the media were allowed, as they often do, to vilify a whole community based on the speeches and lunacy of one man. With Hamza gone, they've had to find new targets, such as Omar Bakri, who is now also outside the country. The government has used these preachers, however isolated they are and however much their own community hates their views to pass through significant reductions of civil liberties. Along with the tabloids they have preached fear, as shown today by the notion that there is a "jihad army" in the country, and that there were terrorist training camps, despite no evidence being produced for either. MPs and the Conservatives should not give in to those who wish to reduce our freedoms because of a tiny minority who preach hate, and should reject this government's mendacity.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006 

No Trousers Charlie takes advantage of the situation.

The Labour government is never one to pass up an opportunity to benefit from public events. One advisor thought that September the 11th would be a great day to bury bad news about the railways. In the same spirit, Charles Clarke thought that it would be a ripping good idea to bring back in the "glorifying" terrorism part of the current act going through parliament:

Mr Clarke sought to use the protests to challenge opponents of the Government's Terror Bill to drop their opposition to some of the most controversial proposals including a clause to outlaw the "glorification" of terrorism, which was thrown out in the Lords. His remarks are certain to intensify the row over the Bill when it returns to the Commons next week.

Ministers appeared to harden their rhetoric after calls grew for prosecutions over the demonstrations in London, with the police accused of standing by while protesters carried banners that appeared to incite people to murder.

Mr Clarke called on the Tory leader David Cameron to drop opposition to a clause outlawing glorification of terrorism. But Mr Cameron later appeared to rule out any compromise over the plans.

Asked if he would back the law, he said: "I believe in free speech, but free speech under the law. Many of those people carrying those placards were clearly inciting violence or inciting hatred and that is against the law. It does not need any new glorification laws. The things they are inciting people to do are against the law today."

Labour rebels, who are determined to stick to their objections, are also likely to accuse Mr Clarke of using the offensive protests last week to drive through a measure which will damage civil liberties. However, it is likely that the Government will overturn the Lords defeat and reintroduce " glorification" of terrorism as a new offence.

Officials said it would enable the prosecution of Muslim clerics who have avoided directly inciting supporters to kill people, but suggested that those who carried out killings would enter heaven. Senior Whitehall sources confirmed that protesters who last weekend directly called for people to be killed could be prosecuted under the existing incitement to murder laws.

The whole "glorification" of terrorism part of the bill is still way too broadly drafted, which is why the Lords removed the whole section from the bill. Charles Clarke has previously said that it would criminalise those that call for the overthrow of governments, elected or not. In other words, someone who said that Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe should be removed from office through people power could well be prosecuted for "glorifying" terrorism. That's without even going into the possibilities of someone supporting suicide bombing in Israel, or the taking up of arms against a government which could not be removed without violence, let alone talking about the ANC struggle in South Africa, which many called terrorism for decades. The bill would be a minefield, and as the article states, is completely unneccessary anyway. Abu Hamza has just been convicted for his part in stirring up hatred. Arrests on those who incited violence on the march on Friday are likely.

As usual with New Labour, any excuse is good enough for introducing bad legislation which hasn't been properly thought through. While Blair is prepared to compromise on education, he pushes through ID cards despite the frightening consequences they and the database behind them will have on civil liberties. The Labour backbenches must not go quiet because of the probable deal on education. Without them, we are doomed to even more bad bills.

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Sun-watch: Watch out for egg-throwing terrorists!

When I wrote yesterday's post about Ruth Kelly getting egged, calling the perpetrator a terrorist, I was joking. I think the Sun might just be taking things a little too seriously:

RUTH Kelly is no great shakes as an education supremo.

But that does not excuse the fanatic who pelted her with eggs.

Why should any public figure be subject to such humiliation?

The actions of Fathers 4 Justice — including threatening to kidnap Tony Blair’s lad, Leo — verge on terrorism.

Speaking of fanatics, what became of the women who exposed "paedophiles" on the front page of her newspaper? Oh yes, she's editor of the Sun. As for humiliation for public figures, the Sun sure enjoyed George Galloway making a fool of himself in Celebrity Big Brother. As for kidnapping Leo Blair, that was an overheard conversation in a pub by a bunch of drunks. Coming from a newspaper that called public figures (MPs) who voted against the 90-days detention bill traitors, I'm not sure that the Sun should be the one that decides what humiliation is, let alone terrorism.

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Monday, February 06, 2006 

Kelly hit by disgruntled terrorist father.

Only with an egg though:

On another note, am I errm, strange in finding Ruth Kelly somewhat sexy? I'm not sure whether it's something to do with the Catholic Opus Dei thing or not. It's certainly not her voice, which could curdle milk, but still. I'm pretty sure she was in Viz's borderline boilers, so hey, I guess I'm not alone.

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Cameron calls for Queen's power to be removed - but can't see the full picture.

So Cameron jumps on the bandwagon started by the Guardian, Independent and Clare Short and taken up before him by Gordon Brown.

He is calling on his party's new democracy taskforce, chaired by Kenneth Clarke, to "consider the use by ministers of the power of the royal prerogative".

That covers a vast range of government activity, from the appointment of bishops and the honours system to the right to go to war, sign treaties and fill many official jobs. However, Mr Cameron has asked it to focus on four specific areas: the right to

· declare war and send troops abroad;

· to make international and European treaties;

· to make appointments and award honours;

· to make major changes to the structure of government.

He has specifically ruled out changes to what he calls "the personal prerogative powers of the monarch, such as the power to dissolve parliament and appoint a prime minister". Mr Cameron is anxious to make it clear that he does not have Her Majesty in his sights, but the powers ministers now exercise on her behalf. He is not, aides insist, a closet republican. That may help to placate some traditionalist Tory backbenchers, already uneasy at the direction of the party under its new leader.

Carrying on with his policy of stealing other people's ideas and policies, Cameron's support for constitutional reform should nonetheless be welcomed. Yet he doesn't see where the further weakening of the monarchy is inevitably leading - or rather he does, it's just that he's afraid of calling for that inevitability. Yes, it's the abolition of the monarchy and creation of a republic.

Republicanism, which briefly flourished after the death of Diana has again become something of a minority issue, especially in the wake of 9/11 and the rise of more pressing issues. Yet none of the leading parties have as a policy, nor even dare talk about getting rid of the main blotch on what is becoming gradually a more equal, if not in economic terms country. That in the 21st century we still put up with having a head of state that is unanswerable to anyone, who sits for life, who swallows large amounts of taxpayers money and is born into the position is something of an anachronism. Polls often show that there is and always has been a decent sized group who would like to see the monarchy done away with, yet there are very few politicians you could name who are ardent republicans. The only one I can think of straight away is Roy Hattersley - and he's in the unelected House of Lords.

Toying around with the basics powers of the monarchy is all well and good, but what's the point? Obviously it is not something that can be done lightly, and the ramifications of such a move would be huge, but it's time we said that Queen Elizabeth the 2nd should be not only the last Elizabeth - but also the last monarch altogether, and start the planning immediately.

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The rise of stupid.

Nathan Barley, Channel 4's comedy series written by Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker examined what one of the main characters felt was "the rise of the idiots". Something like those who seem to think that chavs are the new "ruling class", Dan Ashcroft found himself surrounded by self-publicing morons who always got the better of him. I somewhat feel like that when looking at today's Daily Star and Express.

Sorry to break it to you love, but they sure aren't real in that picture. The whole thing's been so airbrushed you can almost see the bones. Seriously, Big Brother ended over a week ago. Does the Daily Star still really think that anyone can remember who she is, let alone care about her? When "popular" "culture" is forced down your throat, is it any surprise when people are turning away from newspapers and tv in their droves?

That's nothing compared to the Diana Express, however.

Without a single shred of evidence, the Daily Express alleges that "spies" used a laser to distract Henri Paul. Except that, err, there was CCTV footage which would have surely showed them if they had. And, oh, that Henri Paul was both drunk and taking prescription medication in conjuction with it. For how much longer is Dirty Desmond going to keep allowing Mohammad Al-Fayed and Max Clifford feeding their crap to the paper?

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