All entries for June 2006

June 12, 2006

Q. How many murders in the U.S. last year?

Writing about web page

A. 16,912

And 92,000 rapes. Remember those are just the ones that get reported.

And in the UK? About 853 murders per year is the best figure I can find. Bear in mind our population is about one–fifth that of the U.S.

Gee, wish we were more like them Americans!!!


Incidentally, the UK government couldn't be less transparent if it tried when it comes to reporting crime. Its figures are given as occurences per 1000 people, making it virtually impossible to work out accurate totals.

June 11, 2006

More respect for human rights from the Bush Administration…

...or not.

Colleen Graffy, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, excelled herself in the school of defending the indefensible a few months ago when she claimed that Guantanamo Bay detainees were being treated fairly (despite the evidence to the contrary).

Well today she's gone a step further by claiming that the suicides of three detainees were "a good PR move".

I'm not always a big fan of the Liberty brigade, but Graffy's comments show absolutely no respect for the human rights of the three people who killed themselves. There's been practically no evidence shown that these people are guilty of any crimes, so to suggest that they would go to the extreme of committing suicide as "a tactic to further the jihadi cause" is just the sort of speculation that is completely unhelpful. It's not really much different to saying "all Muslims are terrorists", because the lack of information given to the public means that the detainees could be, for all we know, just an innocent guy walking down the street. The typical American knows them only to be a Muslim man, who never had any right of reply to the propaganda pumped out by the State Department and the Pentagon.

The U.S. keep saying they want to close Guantanamo, but those words are completely empty until they do it.

Ah the Yanks and their 'soccer'!

You gotta love those damn Americans. From the New York Times (about yesterday's game):

A terrible game, really. Beckham clearly the man of the match, but few others did anything of note.

Beckham the best player in the game? He wasn't even the best player on England's right flank!

And in better news…

Another great task on Big Brother – getting the housemates/participants/idiots to stand on small podiums.

That's it.

They don't know it, but the person who stays on for longest gets immunity from eviction. But I can help thinking that alternative 'tasks' might make for better television.

  1. Strap all the remaining housemates to a particular device used for killing. We're talking electric chairs, hanging, lethal injection, death by water torture. Housemates have to come to a consensus over which housemate should suffer their impending fate, based on how much they hate each other and who's got the most painful method of extermination.

  2. Starvation. Whichever housemate is first to be eaten by the others wins the series. Have to hope they kept them alive and just ate a finger though.

  3. Toilet bowls contain acid, not water. Don't tell them.

  4. Walls of house move inwards, eventually trapping them in a smaller and smaller space. Only way to avoid certain death is promising never to release a fitness video.

As you can see, there is a certain amount of pain involved in some of these tasks. But they would 1) be justified 2) dissuade people from applying to go in the house 3) make great telly

Just another Saturday night in Leam

Will I miss Leamington when I leave in a couple of weeks time?

Based on last night, no. Firstly, don't worry Jimmy, it was nothing to do with your pleasant company during the Argentina v Ivory Coast game.

It was more the virtually constant alcohol–infused violence going on outside my flat from midnight until 2.30am. I must have heard about five instances of threats to murder and tens of people who weren't just drunk but utterly paralytic. It only ended when several people got badly injured and the police (eventually) turned up.

Listening in bed while a long procession of drunk 'revellers' wandered past, it was remarkable how it sounded like a school playground had moved outside, albeit with the added bonus of broken beer bottles ready to be used as weapons. The guy sat in the middle of the road at 1.30am screaming "why are all the pubs shut" (making Big Brother's Nikki sound like an Oxbridge graduate) nearly took the prize for most pathetic excuse for an adult.

That was until some guy appeared (I was at the window by this point) to batter his girlfriend and anyone who tried to get in his way. Judging by the look of horror on the faces of people who could see it properly, and the resulting pools of blood on the pavement, it must have been a pretty horrific attack.

Interestingly, from two floors up you can work out why there appears to be so few police officers in Leamington most nights. They're all in unmarked cars. I must have seen three different saloons go by, each with police inside (you can only really see their stab–proof vests from above). Unfortunately, this means there's no 'deterrent'. There's just the unlikely chance that you might be spotted by a hidden policeman.

Sadly I suspect that leaving Leamington won't bring an end to living with widespread alcohol–fuelled violence. Living in what essentially is a large village at home, I know that even the smallest places suffer the same problems as city centres. And yet you rarely see village–violence(!) reported.

June 06, 2006

U.S. Presidential Election to be defined by gay marriage?

President Bush is calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and my thoughts on the subject have been pretty accurately described on other blogs.

But why are the Republicans pushing this issue now?

The left–of–centre New York Times (think an American version of The Guardian) reckons it's the first battle in a long war in the run–up to this year's congressional midterm elections and eventually the 2008 Presidential elections. It's entirely possible that over these two years both the White House and the Senate could switch from Republican to Democrat control, largely due to growing dissatisfaction over Bush's handling of Iraq and the economy.

One thing which stands out in the NY Times article is the suggestion that pushing for a constitutional amendment would force the issue onto state referendums this year, bringing conservative voters out for the gay marriage issue (and at the same time, getting them to vote in crucial national and state elections). For a constitutional amendment to pass, it has to have two–thirds agreement in both houses of Congress and the support (often by referendum) in three–quarters of the states.

The gay marriage amendment will never get that far, and even the most conservative church groups know it. So essentially, the theory that the Republicans are trying to use a gay marriage referendum to get their core vote out is, at best, speculative.

But having the issue at the heart of the national debate will have other consequences, some of them intended. For one thing it will make this year's elections far more divisive. Conservatives love the issue (the right–of–centre Washington Times has it as one of its top stories, while the NY Times has it buried away).

But what it will certainly do is bring out the Republicans in large numbers, and could well be a boon for Bush as his Presidency looks increasingly sterile. He's lost much of his support from the right of his own party because 1) he didn't keep his promises in 2004 to ban gay marriage and 2) because they're moving on to nurturing the next guy.

And while a lame duck, he's still savvy enough to know that putting this issue at the forefront of American politics (above rising petrol prices and Iraq) will give him – and more importantly his potential Republican successor – a fighting chance this year and in 2008, even if a comprehensive ban on gay marriage across all states is certainly, thankfully, going to be an enigma.

June 05, 2006

Musical Chairs at Dorneywood

Disloyalty accounts for around 51% of politics (the remaining 49% being a combination of spin, nonsense, compromise and loose consensus).

Recent weeks in the Labour Party haven't deviated from this little formula. Firstly the party failed to unite around Charles Clarke in his hour–of–need (although put in their shoes I think I'd do the same), and more recently it has been open–season on John Prescott's position following his affairs and general lack of a raison d'etre.

Those who haven't reached the full potential of their political careers (Harman, Benn, Johnson, Hain, perhaps Jack Straw too), are taking this moment to jockey for a position which the last nine years have proven to be immensely important to the party, if not to the country as a whole. Prescott has been many things, and these things have often been derogatory, but one essential role he has played is a bridge from the left of the Party to the New Labour core.

With Gordon "charisma of a sprout" Brown destined for Number 10, and considering his apparent devotion to the New Labour cause, the occupant of Dorneywood again needs to be a bridge between the PM and the 'rest' of the party. Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian today says that Labour has become disconnected from those who it purports to represent, because its leaders have become used to

holidays with the Berlusconis; a taste for property and investments; thousands of pounds on hairdressing budgets

rather than working as a milkman, engineer or postman.

Which brings me neatly to Alan Johnson. The man who knows Dorneywood already (from the days when he was the postman in the local area) seems to be perfect for the job, so long as Gordon's date with destiny comes true. Otherwise he'd be a very popular potential leader.

Johnson's a true unionist, but one that has firmly converted to the church of the New Labourites. Yet he still seems to connect with the voters that just about everyone outside of the Labour Party would say is a rarity amongst Labour ministers. Johnson only came into the Commons in 1997 and is supposed to be one of the most vigorous supporters of electoral reform, which can only be a good thing.

He still refers to allies as comrades but in a recent speech to a group of left–wingers made promising noises that suggested he could bring the Labour party along with a potential Johnson–led Labour leadership. He emphasised "economic development–as–freedom", "the democratization of everyday life" and "faith in the capacities of our fellows". These are not words you hear from Blair and Brown. They appeal to trade unionists. But they also appeal to the typical citizen without being so vague as to avoid possible contradiction (see Michael Howard's statement of beliefs before the 2005 election).

That is why, despite what Martin Kettle says, the deputy leadership of the Labour Party should matter to real people. The contest shouldn't be a matter of putting in a female candidate for the sake of it, or of finding a counterbalance for Brown.

And yes, the contest is premature, but it represents the knowledge that Labour backbenchers can attempt to oust the Deputy PM in a way which they can only dream of when it comes to Blair.

But when the contest does, inevitably happen, what Alan Johnson would bring to the deputy leadership – and make the role much more important to the public – is a sense of the common touch and the sense of purpose which nine years of government seems to have drained from the Labour party.

June 01, 2006

The Lecturers' Strike on RaW – 5pm Tonight

Listen in from 5pm tonight for everything you could need to know about the lecturers' strike.

We're talking to the Union leaders, the University, and the students to decode the strike.

Tune in now on 1251AM or listen online at

And send us your comments to

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