No-one knows if Gaddafi's alive or dead. He could be scrabbling through underground tunnels below his compound, hiding out in the desert in a foxhole or staging a one-man fight against the "terrorists" via his own air-conditioning ducts, armed with a Zippo lighter, a battered packet of Marlboro Reds and a nice set of wisecracks.
Chances are though he's going to do exactly the same as Saddam Hussein, do a flit and grow a beard while running a counter-insurgency funded by all his oil money, while the ransom on his head fails to catch him. And how many other things about Libya are the same as Iraq?
With international consensus, a dictator has been toppled and a power vacuum introduced. A statue has been hit with some flip-flops. There is mass euphoria, but no water or power in much of the capital. Everyone has an AK47 and no idea how to use them. The day-long 'battle' to get into Gaddafi's main compound seemed to involve a lot of people shooting randomly at a 15ft high concrete wall until someone figured out how to open the gate, and this guy brought some light relief to the evening news by barely keeping on his feet while shooting an anti-aircraft gun wildly into the middle distance.
It's no wonder there are hundreds dead and thousands injured on the streets of Tripoli. The hospitals are struggling, and what do you think they can do for a woman in childbirth or someone with a heart attack?
And Libya is a nation filled with divisions - religious, ethnic, economic - which Gaddafi was the only person crazy and scary enough to unite. With him gone the Islamists, Berbers, criminals and Christians are going to slug it out.
The NATO powers have been quick to point out this time they've planned for a reconstruction. But the Libyan National Transitional Council is still in Benghazi writing a constitution, looters are running riot through the capital nicking whatever they can find, no-one's burying the bodies or emptying the bins, and they longer they leave it the more lawless it's going to get.
A guy who picks up a gun, even with the best of intentions, rarely puts it down again unless someone makes him. And who's going to make him?
Oh yes. That'll be NATO again. There's no military to do it, no police force, no justice system or fear of the consequences.
At least we've learned from our mistakes, and this time we are screwing things up ever so slightly differently to the way we did it last time.
IF this woman spent her time complaining about people on Twitter, 'yobbos' wearing jeans and how Maggie Thatcher was a leader cast in the mould of Winston Churchill we'd all ignore her.
A woman called Joan.
In fact she's spent this week complaining about the weather, advising the nation what kind of clothes to wear and telling us her thoughts on why Nick Clegg is somehow holding Dishface back from true Prime Ministerial greatness.
This lady has been telling us the manifold ways in which she believes Britain has been irretrievably ruined and it's all the fault of that old bogeyman 'political correctness'.
The same woman.
But no-one has pointed out these were the thoughts of a septuagenarian who, while to be applauded and praised for many things not least her personal broad-mindedness, won't earn many points for logical reasoning.
That's because when she said all those things, she was wearing a different wig.
A YEAR and a half ago a catastrophic earthquake with the magnitude of 7.0 struck Haiti.
It was thought to have killed around 300,000 people, injured the same again, and made one million homeless. A country whose only industry of late had been as a staging post for the Columbian drugs trade slid from lawlessness into all-out anarchy.
We all remember the scenes captured by the journalists brave enough to go in: looters scrabbling under collapsed buildings for food, corpses decomposing in the rubble, children plucked from the ruins in defiance of the odds.
The world got very worried about it for a bit. Search and rescue teams flew in, aid was distributed to a starving population, and some American Baptists got done for kidnapping children. The EU promised £287m in long-term aid, Italy waived loan repayments, Canada gave cash and debt relief to the tune of £472m and America - which in 1994 had sent in soldiers to oversee the charmingly-named Operation Uphold Democracy, until it died on its arse - pledged £1.5bn.
But then the story faded for the simple reason nothing happened. Journalists who tried to return for the anniversary were told it was too dangerous, and only a few brave aid workers are still there.
Today, one million refugees are still living in tents made with tarpaulins and sticks, and the number is rising. Ninety five per cent of the rubble has not been cleared, there are thousands of bodies rotting in the ruins, and most of the capital uninhabitable. Many nations that promised money for rebuilding haven't paid it, because no-one promised money for rubble clearing and until the rubble is cleared no homes can be built.
Criminal gangs rule 1,300 tent cities, raping, killing and thieving with impunity. Refugees International said last year: "The people of Haiti are still living in a state of emergency, with a humanitarian response that appears paralysed. Gang leaders or land owners are intimidating the displaced. Sexual, domestic, and gang violence in and around the camps is rising. Action is urgently needed to protect the basic human rights of people displaced by the earthquake."
The country does not have basic services back online. One camp of 5,000 people has just five toilets. By the end of 2010 cholera was killing 50 people a day.
Haiti is arguably a failed state, a place which has a constitution but no hope, an elected president but no safety. It doesn't even have building regs. There is no code but survival of the most ruthless.
And tonight or tomorrow Hurricane Irene is expected to sweep past.
Meanwhile about 450 miles to the east the same hurricane hit a billionaire's house with lightning, Kate Winslet gave an unlikely fireman's lift to a 92-year-old woman, and nobody died.
Richard Branson said: "It's very much the Dunkirk spirit here... we want to rebuild the house as soon as we can." His daughter wants to get married there later this year and the family are dreaming up new designs.
I don't begrudge the Bransons their wealth, their island or their wish to fix up the mess as soon as possible.
I begrudge the fact that no-one's bothered to do the same for the suffering humanity who need it most.
IT WAS only a few weeks ago many of us - yours truly included - were demanding Dishface end his holiday and show some leadership while the nation's major cities were engulfed in riots and flame.
After 72 hours his press officer paid some attention to us and the Prime Minister left the £10,000-a-week Tuscan villa where he was having tennis lessons with a Bullingdon Club chum to come home, and promptly displayed zero leadership by reading out a speech someone else had written telling the rioters off.
It made bugger all difference, because by that point the police had had time to call people back from leave and send the lads in to knock a few heads together. Only a cynic would say that Dishface's return was carefully-timed to coincide with the planned police surge, rather than a response to the voters.
Since then he's gone off on his fifth holiday in as many months.
First there was Cornwall back in spring.
Then there was a mini-break to Granada.
Then there was Ibiza.
Then there was Tuscany, where the millionaire eventually remembered to tip the waitress.
And this week he's gone back to Cornwall.
From whence he has returned to London, briefly, to discuss the end-game in Libya before going back to his beach.
I'd love to say all this gallivanting is doing the nation a disservice, but I've racked my brains and can't think of anything much that would be improved by this man giving it his close attention.
I can't say I'm completely relaxed about having a Prime Minister paid £142,500 a year to do very little of any worth. I can't help thinking he's an Earth version of Zaphod Beeblebrox, the Douglas Adams character who was made President of the Universe purely to distract attention from the people who were really in charge.
But I suppose him being utterly disengaged - from the electorate, the nation's wants and needs, the nuclear button - can only be better than having someone so dim he can't open a bottle of wine without an embolism actually making decisions on our behalf.
ANOTHER A-level results day, another slew of pictures of photogenic young girls in not many summer clothes jumping around looking happy.
You don't see the ones who didn't get the grades they wanted. Tearful teens are in newspapers only when there's a school killing spree, generally. You also don't see the fat girls, the speccy ones, or the plain ones, who may be celebrating just as much but a picture of whom won't sell a single newspaper.
You don't see teenage boys either, although you can smell them a mile away: either they don't wash at all or drown themselves in Lynx. Spotty oiks don't take much of a picture, and anyway girls get better exam results. They also express emotion in photographs and boys, with the best will in the world, just don't.
It all adds up to a lot of well-intentioned people grumbling about sexist and slightly-pervy newspapers - tabloid and snoresheet - photographing barely-legal young women.
How dreadful of us. How appalling that millions of extra people will look at our websites today and buy the papers tomorrow to see those same pictures, keeping our struggling businesses afloat while telling themselves how bad it is that they are being forced to look at pretty girls in tiny shorts and my, what long hair they have!
But to be frank, it doesn't matter a damn.
Firstly because A-levels are like popularity - important when you're 18, and for the rest of your life you couldn't care less. And secondly because the sight of a happy teenage girl with a whole life of possibilities in front of her is one of the most magical things you'll ever see.
There aren't many countries where that happens. Europe, North America, Australasia, Japan. Those girls you'll see in the pictures are smiling because they can be anything they want to be. The right exam result means you can get into the right university, get the right degree, land a dream job.
In India if you're a girl you're lucky to survive to 18. In most of Africa school is an expensive luxury that comes a long way down a parent's list. In China a girl will probably be aborted if her parents can afford it, and dumped after she is born if they can't. In fact, while we're busy bewailing pictures of successful young kids in the newspapers covering our tiny, self-important part of the planet, there are 100million women in the rest of the world who have simply disappeared.
Let me say that again, because you skimmed over it a little quickly. One hundred million. The equivalent, if you're into comparisons, of the Holocaust sixteen times over. Or 66,000 Titanics sinking. Remember the Norway massacre a few weeks ago? Sixty-nine young people slaughtered. Well, imagine that happening every day for 3,835 years. Yeah. That many.
Boys outnumber girls, very slightly, when they're born. If they get a good diet and are lucky enough to live in a wealthy country like yours and mine - you're among the 30 per cent of the world with the internet, so you're ahead of the game - women will outlive men, for simple biological reasons. They are more resistant to disease, deal better with the sniffles, and are generally nails.
Except there are many parts of the world where males significantly outnumber women. These are in the parts where diet and disease would, naturally, mean things should be the other way around. But in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, girls who should have been born are missing. In these places they are more likely to die at every stage of their lives; they are more likely to be aborted, abandoned, to be denied medical care, to be abused, neglected, beaten and murdered.
In China alone there are 50million women who ought to be there, but just aren't.
Even if they survive in most of the world girls are seen as less deserving of education, first aid, gynaecology, property, a driving licence, or the protection of the law. And before you stop and think how glad you are your country isn't like that, here in the UK and in most of the developed world women are less likely to earn the same as men for the same job, to be elected to Parliament or to become CEO of a company. If one of us is raped, a jury will be asked to consider whether we were "asking for it". In Britain there are 1.05m women on the dole, the highest for 25 years, because the recession is hitting them harder than men - women are more likely to work in the public sector which is being cut, more likely to work part-time, and are generally seen as more expendable by bosses.
It's not quite as bad as the Congo, of course, but all our science and technology hasn't moved us quite as far as it could. And imagine what we could do in the Congo, if only it had oil.
So, do you know what? Shake your head ruefully at the exam results photos, at the fact those kids don't realise this is the thinnest and most carefree they'll ever be, that they feel so positive and thrilled about a life which is going to kick them in the chops every chance it gets. But don't get het up about pictures of young girls who are happy, who by and large and with a following wind will be able to have long and fulfilled lives in which they can do (almost) whatever they want.
In 2005 he got a job which gave him access to the public purse, from which he obtained thousands of pounds to equip a posh London home which was already quite-well furnished.
He used the money to buy a £331 armchair, a £493 cabinet, and a pair of elephant lamps for £134.50. He also got a £750 Loire table, a birch Camargue chair worth £432 and a birdcage coffee table for £238.50. He got us to pay for Egyptian cotton sheets from the White Company, a £454 dishwasher, a £639 range cooker, a £702 fridge freezer, a £20 toaster, a £35 children's mattress, and a £30 doormat.
Having fitted out the house he decided to sell it, and moved to a new home in Surrey. Once there he carried out the same trick and dipped his hand into the taxpayer's pocket to fund the moving costs and stamp duty to the value of £13,259. When he stayed in a hotel for a night during the move, he thought the public should pay his £500 bill. He took his furniture with him, and his bottom still sits in our armchair.
In the two years that followed he demanded - and received - public funding of £45,193 which paid for his mortgage on the new house, his utility bills, TV licence, council tax and telephone costs, which he thought he deserved despite being among the top 10 per cent of earners in the UK.
The man's misdemeanours are well-known and have caused public revulsion. His punishment was to repay £7,000, and to be made Secretary of State for Education. He now tells us how to raise our children, for which he is paid from that same public purse a grand total of £145,492 a year. He has not learned from his offence, and still makes us pay for his mortgage interest, council tax, home insurance and utilities.
Then there's a 22-year-old girl from a good family who was going to start university next month. During the riots last week she, her sister and a friend went out to rubber-neck what was going on and were drawn to the Argos store in Croydon, where a gang of 100 other people had torn through the shop stealing stock.
The girl didn't steal anything. She didn't smash anything. Her sister had nicked some chewing gum from a Kwiksave. The girl and her friends were arrested outside the shop, and when they were hauled to court last week all admitted intent to steal and were sentenced to six months in jail.
Now, there are looters who carried out awful deeds and caused terrible damage and deserve a strong sentence, but Shonola Smith isn't one of them. If you sentenced her to go down to Argos and fix the shop up that's all the punishment she'd need and she'd never do it again.
Intending to commit a crime is different to actually committing one. Getting swept up by an event is different to a pattern of behaviour planned and conducted over a period of years. Michael Gove is a a greedy man who has gained financially from playing a system which was never intended to pay for sheets, doormats or flippin' elephant lamps. But he has never been brought to court, and nor will he, because he was "following the rules" which he helped to write himself.
Shonola was stupid, and Gove was clever. She has learned that rules are just for the poor, and he has learned how to get away with it. The law must be robust, it seems, except with those who make it.
Dishface said of the rioters last week: "You will feel the full force of the law. And if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishment."
FOR those who wonder whether I exist, whether I am a man and if I'm capable of not swearing, here is proof that I do, I'm not, and I can sometimes.
The very lovely Sadie and Sarah invited me onto their Sunday afternoon show on Chance Radio to do a little review of the weekend's papers. They were very kind and gave me a cup of tea and some biscuits, but we were all so busy having fun we forgot to record it. Luckily one of you did, and was kind enough to send it to me. Thank you Paul!
So here it is, along with a telling-off for Richard Desmond, ranting about Jimmy Choos, a shameless plug and a bit of a rollocking for the Prime Minister. Having listened to it I've decided to not do silly voices ever again, and also to record things next time.
Warning - this is a half-hour segment out of a one-hour show, with the music cut out so there's a few jumps and it's not complete. They introduce me then I'm on about ten minutes in.
THANK heaven for windbags. Where would we be without politicians selflessly prepared to come back from holiday (travel expenses paid by us) to point the blame at everyone else for causing the worst riots in a generation?
Blame has been pointed, so far, at Twitter, single parents, benefit claimants, school holidays, the weather, race divisions, vigilantes, bad parents, deprivation, middle class kids looking for kicks and bankers bringing the nation's economy to its knees.
Not one of them is right, and yet all of them are.
The factors that propelled thousands of people to loot and pillage shops and houses are massively complex and virtually impossible to define. That's not stopping everyone trying, because it's a lot easier than coming up with a solution.
Cut benefits for those convicted of looting and you just make them more likely to loot; jail youngsters for a mistake and they are merely taught how to be better criminals; let the police dole out rough justice with their batons and you've a series of civil cases on your hands. Ban Twitter or Blackberry messaging for spreading dissent and at some point you have to ban pens and paper too.
But they're not solutions either, just punishments. As if fear of punishment were enough to deter a crime, when the death penalty and murder rates in the US proves that's a fallacy. A better punishment would be for every looter to be sentenced to rebuild the businesses or homes they helped to destroy - to rebuild the bricks, paint the walls, or price up new stock, spend a couple of weeks working to repair what they broke. It won't work with all of them but most would be proud of that shop every time they walked past it and more importantly, they'd never trash such a place again.
Desmond Morris, the zoologist, blamed the riots on humans being forced to live in cities, a cramping sort of inhuman pressure which we are not evolved to deal with. Villages don't have riots, he said. He had a point: the riots were a result of people being disengaged, and I don't just mean the looters. I mean you and me as well.
The fact is that in a society we all affect one another, like pebbles on a riverbed. One moves and those around it do too, making the water flow differently and creating ripples felt a lot further away. From my back garden I can see the homes of hundreds of people, most of whom I've never spoken to but whose behaviour can affect my life in very powerful ways. Their music, parties, arguments, building works, how they drive, where they shop, whether they bag their rubbish properly, all have an impact on me. This week all of them were as worried as I was about the riots coming to our part of town, and some knocked on each other's doors for the first time, said hello and swapped information. Whatever the causes of the riots, we are all a part of them as much as we are the victims.
If we are to have a society, if we want a police force to look after our interests, to vote for politicians, to allow some people to govern with our consent and to punish others (sometimes the same people) for misbehaviour, if we want a system that works, then we must be part of it. That means accepting that we are social animals and an organism greater than our own little worlds.
It means that we are all parents, to some extent. If you see a child fall down in front of you in the street, you'd pick him or her up; so if you see them misbehave, why not tell them off? If a neighbour is playing music at an anti-social volume, why not politely explain that not everyone shares their tastes and ask them to turn it down? If you see the same check-out girl at the supermarket three days a week and you recognise each other, why not say hello and learn her name?
Because we're too scared, half the time. Scared to get involved, scared to put our heads above the parapet, scared of getting into trouble or being knifed or getting a load of lip. And because of that minor fear we live in a world where we are terrified to engage. And how much poorer is our society for that? Bugger the bankers, that unwillingness to be involved is what impoverishes us more than anything else.
These days many companies have a social responsibility department, to make them look less like corporate monsters. They haven't made a great deal of difference, but it's not a bad idea. Dishface's Big Society idea was dreamed up as a way of justifying public service cuts but it has a reasonable aim. Both are intended to engage people with the world around us at a time when modern life - the self-contained boxes we drive, live and work in, mobile telephones, the internet, social networks - bring us closer together but only at arm's length.
The causes of the riots stretch back over years. They'll probably be repeated, and many are impossible to tackle. What we can all do is accept the social responsibility that comes with living alongside each other, as politely as possible, and hope it makes a difference next time.
It's not about bleeding-heart liberalism any more than it is being a string-em-up hardliner. It's about not being afraid to ask a kid with their feet on the train seat to not just move them, but not to do it again. It's about explaining to the children next door that, while it's absolutely fine they play football, they don't kick the ball against the wall of your house because it's causing a crack and you are not a goalpost. It's noticing when someone's dealing in your area and telling the police, fighting the mindless bureaucracy of your local council parking department, picking up rubbish if you see it in the street and, if you someone drop it, telling them to pick it up instead.
It's about not turning a blind eye because it's easier, never giving in, never disengaging, and never being too scared to say 'this is my world as much as it is yours'.
Maybe if we all did that, it would be better than it is. The riots have shown it can certainly be worse; we need to not just hold on to the society we've got but make it stronger. Windbags can't do that.
Besides, there's more of us than them.
No man is an island, entire of itself
Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
MY mum taught me swearing is bad, but I think it's sometimes the perfect way to express yourself.
So after thinking long and hard about something eloquent and meaningful to write about the riots, I realised there was nothing I could say that was better than this:
"She's working hard to make her business work and you go and burn it up. For what? Just to say that you're warring and you're a bad man? This is about a fucking man who got shot in Tottenham, this ain't about having fun and busting up the place. Get it real black people! Do it for a cause. If we're fighting for a cause let's fight for a fucking cause. You lot piss me the fuck off. I'm ashamed to be a Hackney person. We're not all gathering together and fighting for a cause, we're running down Foot Locker and thieving shoes."
Which pretty much sums it up. Stay safe, everyone.
THOUSANDS of miles above Earth, on a lonely spacecraft, alien research scientist Grfelft scratches his arse as he slithers into the viewing room.
He pours a cup of coffee, stretches his tentacles, and grunts at his colleague Bob before slumping onto a chair in front of the computer screens.
"What are they up to today then?" he says in a grumpy tone. Grfelft has been on this posting for 485 years so far, and is not enjoying it much.
Bob leans back from the telescope, rubs his eye, and says: "They're all shitting themselves."
Grfelft sighs. "They're always doing that. We reported that the first day we were here, and you know The Big Wang doesn't believe us and we're not allowed to go down there to get samples. Just leave it."
Bob grabs a handful of popcorn and puts his eye back to the scope. "No, seriously. They're panicky-shitting-themselves."
Grfelft raises a legbrow. "Really? Where's Liz Jones?"
"She's in Somalia. They haven't found out about her yet, don't worry."
"So what's put the wind up them?"
"Well, as far as I can make out, there's been a critical loss of confidence leading to widespread fear about the future."
"Are you sure Liz Jones isn't involved?"
"Don't worry, she's on a low-level data-collection mission in the Horn of Africa. There's no mobile signal, she can't do much harm. No, this is all about the economy."
"Oh God, not that again. It's so BORING. That killing spree last week was much more interesting."
"Hmm. Well, anyway, there's these bankers, and they decided that America wasn't as safe as they thought it was, and they said so, and then all the bankers sold everything they had with a dollar sign on it, and that made everyone else sell everything too, just in case. Now all the bankers are worried that all the money they've given everyone won't be paid back, and they might ask the governments to pay them more money to make up for the fact they're less likely to pay it back."
"Has anyone figured out yet that none of this money exists?"
"Don't seem to, no," says Bob, chewing on a simulated bacon sandwich and fiddling with the zoom on the White House.
"So, basically, everything's exactly the same as it was yesterday?"
"Yup," says Bob.
"Christ, this place is shit. D'you remember that millennium we spent watching the triple-breasted ziggles discover sexual reproduction? That was fun. So who's in charge of all the money?"
"A French lady, but she's only been in the job five minutes and has been accused of corruption. It used to be this fat French man, but he's a sex-pig so he had to resign."
"Oh, well, the French. What'd they expect? Where are the world's leaders, then?
"Well, they're on holiday. Obama's had a birthday party, Sarkozy's on the Riviera, Merkel's in the mountains and Dishface is in an Italian villa. Gideon's at Disneyland. But all of them are really upset. They've all been ringing each other up and screaming. Gideon's been screaming even when he's not on the phone."
"But they're all still breathing in and out, right? Most of the humans are in a job and most of them have their health?"
"Yeah, pretty much. Thirty per cent of them have got the internet and Steve Jobs is richer than America. The Horn of Africa's hungry but everyone's used to that."
"Well, they'll send it some money and the soldiers will use it to buy more guns, like normal. They still haven't realised China's in charge of everything. Anything else?"
"Yeah, riots in London. Burning and stuff."
"Some coppers shot someone so they had a protest and it turned into a riot. They looted CarpetRight and Aldi, and broke into Maccy D's and started making their own fries."
"That's the problem with looters, no ambition. What's anyone doing about it?"
"Dishface has flown his tennis coach out to Tuscany."
Bob finishes his sandwich, licking his tentacles as Grfelft repeatedly hits his head against the desk.
Grfelft sits up, and sighs. "Right. Well it can't be all bad. What's happening with the polar bears? I quite like them."
"Oh, another one got shot because it tried to eat some schoolboys who camped in its garden when it hadn't eaten for months."
"NO! THOSE BASTARDS!" Grfelft goes a purple colour, angrily stabs at his keyboard, opens the Polar Bear programme and changes some data. Bob looks nervous and tries to lighten the atmosphere.
"Umm, have you seen this great new app on my iPhone, it's called a FoxBall, and what you do is..."
"WHATEVER! I don't fucking care! These people are IDIOTS. IDIOTS! The single-celled organisms at the bottom of the methane oceans at the other end of the galaxy have more common sense. I mean, it's beautiful down there and they've got orgasms and chocolate and motorbikes but they spend all their time stressing about stupid shit and money which doesn't matter in the least and whether their bums are too big. I'VE GOT SEVEN BUMS, HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL?"
This last sentence is shouted at the large floor-to-ceiling window in the viewing room, and is accompanied by a pint of Grfelft's facial slime which spatters across the glass in his rage. A small squeegee descends from the ceiling with a reproachful noise to wipe it off.
Grfelft subsides. "I'm going back to bed for a couple of years. Maybe when I wake up they won't be quite so bloody stupid."
He stomps off, pausing in the doorway to say over his shoulder: "And get Liz Jones in for a service. Damn thing's malfunctioning every five minutes, we'll have to give her a rebuild. The only research she's sending is about Jim Kerr."
As the electric door whizzes shut Bob rolls his eye, scratches an elbow with one of his feet, and switches over to EastEnders.
* Read updates from Bob and Grfelft here and here.
Paul said: "What?!? So Britain never actually ground to a halt... despite having no government?!? Now THAT'S radical!" But Charles pointed out that even without MPs there are still flaws in our financial system. He said: "To be fair, not everyone paid their taxes."
Richard said: "I am against the death penalty for one reason: if politicians cannot run the country and the economy, how could you trust them with that?" Andrew said: "Killing Bad People is Good, simple as." But Vikki added: "I agree with Foxy. Hole in floor no rights and none of these perks that innocent people can't afford."
Katherine disagreed: "There's a word for the punishment you propose as an alternative to the death penalty - torture."
And Frankie said: "When you write like this i find myself cheering, exceptional piece, you should have a daily column and two on Sundays!"
Ed: With which I cannot help but agree. If only newspaper editors did the same!
Have a nice weekend everyone - looks like it will be unimpressively cloudy, but hey-ho.
It defies common sense that the taxpayer spend £40,000-plus a year keeping a person in jail whose crimes or mental illness are so great they can never be healed.
Roy Whiting, the man who snatched Sarah Payne off the street, threw her in the back of a pre-prepared van, violated and killed her then buried her in a shallow grave, is never going to be cured.
Peter Sutcliffe, the man who killed 13 women and attacked seven more and brought terror to the north of England for five years, is never going to be safe to walk the streets.
Ian Huntley, Steve Wright, Ian Brady. Beverley Allitt, John Duffy, David Mulcahy, Rose West. None of them are ever, with the best will in the world, going to be able to contribute anything but horror and revulsion to society. It's cheaper to kill them, it's easier, and it avoids the kind of problems you get if you leave them alive.
Problems like Levi Bellfield, the man who killed Milly Dowler, Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell, suing the Ministry of Justice for £30,000 compo because another prisoner gave him a smack in the face.
Bellfield is a vile creature whose long career of rape, abuse and violence deserves far more punishment than a wallop. I imagine the Dowler family would give their eye teeth for the chance to be alone with him, no questions asked. To hear that the taxpayer will foot not only his legal bill but also that for fighting him, as well as the possible payout if he wins, is almost as bad as hearing he intends to spend the cash on a caravan for the day he hopes to be released.
As Milly's mum Sally said after his conviction: "The length to which the system goes to protect his human rights seems so unfair compared to what we as a family have had to endure."
It is difficult to think of a reason why Bellfield should not be beaten to death with a hammer, much less given the painless exit of a lethal injection.
Except, of course, for the other just-as-logical problems it would create.
What happened when you hanged a man in 1964, the last time we had the death penalty, is different to what would happen today. The appeals process would take a lot longer for a start, cost more, involve Legal Aid, and would inevitably lead at some point to a killer's dependents suing the hangman for damages.
Who do you get to do the job? Difficult to employ someone with the character required to be an emotionless executioner, and judicially tricky to allow a victim's relatives to throw the switch or stick in the needle.
Then there's the question of where you draw the line. We'd all be fine with the idea of killing Bellfield today, but while he's inarguably a nasty man the Milly conviction was on purely circumstantial evidence. It could be overturned. Are we all right with killing him for something we've no independent proof he was responsible for?
So let's just limit it to paedophiles. Except people are labelled as such whether they have raped a child or looked at a picture of someone raping a child. Both are beyond my ken but they're not the same thing. Maybe if we limit it to paedophiles who murder? But there's not as many of them as you think, so is it worth the cost of changing the law?
What about a woman who kills her partner and claims he was violent, like Jane Andrews? What about the likes of Jeremy Bamber who has spent nearly 30 years inside for murdering his family in a case which has since, if you'll pardon the pun, been shot full of holes? What about Barry George, a nutty man arrested in the teeth of a media firestorm who was later freed and declared totally innocent? What about Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who did dreadful things to three-year-old Jamie Bulger when they were only 10? I wouldn't like to be alone in a room with any of these people, but that doesn't mean they should be dead.
The problem with the death penalty is not just where you draw the line, but who draws it. A bereaved family, as tragic and heartrending as their loss must be, cannot make that decision. A politician who wants votes, a journalist who wants to sell papers, a lawyer trying to make a name for themselves, or even the general public stirred up by a big case, should not make it either. In fact, I cannot think of anyone I would trust to do so.
The point of the death penalty is to deter and to punish. But most paedophiles don't kill, most abuse happens in the home, and most never gets to court. Most will never stop believing that children are sexual creatures. Most murders are a crime of passion, and most serial killers are ill. How can you deter or cure any of those things? Sickos won't care and passion, as has often been pointed out, is ungovernable.
Those against the death penalty say there is no alternative, that jail keeps us safe from people we cannot fix. Yet locking up someone like Bellfield is no punishment at all: the thought of him in a comfy room with an X-Box sticks in my throat.
I don't like just locking him up, and I don't like the idea of killing him. I do like the idea that someone convicted of a heinous crime, once their appeals are exhausted and guilt proven beyond the last shadow of doubt, are stripped of their rights.
No voting. No earning money. No computer. No TV. No books, no newspapers, no bed, no toilet but a hole in the floor. No more lawyers, no exercise, no fresh fruit or sunlight. No talking, no socialising. If Ian Brady wants to go on hunger strike, let him. If Ian Huntley gets his throat cut, let him bleed. Let them be hung upside down for 23 hours a day, let the public in to jeer and chuck vegetables, let them enjoy decades of not having the rights the rest of us enjoy.
Let them die, if it happens. But don't let us become killers.
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
"Killing people who kill people to prove that killing people is bad. What twat came up with that idea?"
FLEET Street traditionally marks the summer period when everyone's on holiday - politicians, judges, celebrities, Royals, even the criminals - by publishing stories which would, at any other time of the year, be considered too daft.
A reporter can normally guarantee an idle suggestion from the newsdesk that this might be the year to finally prove the existence of the Beast of Bodmin, and crazed scientists often choose August to reveal the latest contraption to produce 'evidence' of the Loch Ness Monster.
We've not had a decent summer frenzy for a couple of years now, and the hacking scandal is too serious to add much to the gaiety of the nation as a proper Silly Season should.
But luckily for us two past-it children's TV entertainers have stepped into the breach.
In the blue corner is Paul Daniels, a 73-year-old magician who commanded massive audiences in the 1980s and married his glamorous assistant Debbie McGee. Paul still performs but has reached the status of Slightly Creepy Old Man and has been reduced to posing in his underwear and selling his old magic tricks on eBay.
In the red corner is a puppet known as Sooty, a yellow furry glove with black ears that is supposed to be a bear and whose mischievous adventures with pals Sweep (a dog) and Soo (a panda) were a staple of children's TV for decades. Sooty also has smaller audiences these days and is just as embarrassing, mainly because he's not as cool as Peppa Pig.
While filming a scene for Sooty's latest series these two titans of telly clashed.
Or rather, the hand operating Sooty chucked a pizza at Paul and clocked him in the eye.
The pensioner was treated in hospital, Sooty has insisted the magician asked him to do it, and photographers are fighting for the first pictures to see if Paul has in anyway ended up looking like this:
This story could run and run. We have no idea what kind of pizza was used, or whether it had been properly defrosted. Is there a suggestion of legal action? Would Debbie tell all of her terror? What does Soo have to say about Sooty's misbehaviour? What about the rumours of a long love-affair with Sweep? I can see several big money buy-ups in this. Careers could be made or ruined.
Meanwhile, Sooty and Mr Daniels have both achieved the amount of tabloid coverage they could only imagine if they and their agents were trying to dream up some silly stunt to get two old has-beens in the papers, remind everyone they still exist and pay their bills.
Now that's magic.
I like it. Not a lot, but I like it.
EDIT: A last-minute bid for a Silly Season story has been made by two jokers from Nottingham, who will I predict go back to being called Kevin and Daniel by Christmas. Enjoy their silliness here.
PRINCESS Di did it. Madonna, Paris Hilton, Demi Moore. A whole host of beautiful but slightly-dense people have had colonic irrigation in the belief it will make them more beautiful still.
According to the unqualified quacks flogging the idea at £60 a pop, it can help you lose weight, flush out toxins, boost your immune system and make you feel good.
Trouble is, the whole idea is bullshit.
New research from the University of the Bleeding Obvious shows that introducing a pressure washer to your bum isn't terribly good for you.
It transpires that sending water the wrong way round a one-way system can make you bloated. Gosh.
It also makes you vomit (never!), gives you cramps (no!), washes loads of good stuff out of your body (really?) and will completely nalls up your kidneys. It can even burst your bowel.
Colonic irrigation was first practiced by the ancient Egyptians, who while being quite clever in terms of architecture, astronomy and funky eyeliner were pretty rubbish on the more important stuff like bacteria, working conditions of manual labourers and not marrying your own sister. I wouldn't take their advice on bubble bath, much less anything to do with my insides.
That's because sticking a pipe up your bum is also pointless.
There are no such things as 'toxins' up there. Anything is a toxin, if you eat enough of it. A lawn can be toxic, ham sandwiches, Christmas cake. Nasty, evil poisons trying to kill you simply don't exist - just things that might do you harm, if there's too much of them and you're a bit unlucky or an idiot.
If you're genuinely poisoned, the body generally notices and empties itself fairly quickly from one end or the other. The ingredients of a modern diet - red meat, white bread, caffeine, alcohol - do not stay in your body or gunk anything up. Your liver and kidneys and perspiration and colon do an astounding job cleaning all that stuff out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They do it whether you've eaten junk food or organic dolphin-friendly lettuce or drunk a load of Guinness, and people who have regular colonics actually find their natural processes slow down or stop altogether.
If you want your organs to process your food better you need to take some exercise, get plenty of sleep, and not do any one thing to excess.
And if you want to lose weight, get rid of the nasty stuff and feel good, there is a guaranteed and above-all cheap way of doing it.
BARACK Obama has wangled a last-minute deal to save the US economy and, by extension, that of the rest of the world.
Although the richest nation on Earth was going to go bust on Wednesday - unable to pay for its soldiers, civil servants, schools and countless other things - he managed to get an agreement to extend its debt in return for spending cuts.
The US debt ceiling is already at $14.3trillion, or in proper money £8,736,300,000,000. So that's a bit like me having massive negative equity on my house yet somehow convincing the bank to lend me more money in return for spending slightly less on shoes.
Obama did it because there's elections next year, and if he didn't the other side would get in. Fair enough because no-one in their right mind wants Sarah Palin in charge of plastic cutlery, much less a superpower.
Meanwhile the US government has just $73billion cash in hand, whereas computer company Apple has $76bn. But that's fine, because I already thought Steve Jobs was running the world anyway.
And here in the UK our debt is forecast to hit £1.1trillion this year. Neither Dishface and Gideon, or Miliminor and Ed Ballsitup, have any idea what to do about that.
Well, here's a clue because there is one country where the economy is booming. Growth is forecast to hit 2.3% this year, the deficit turned out to be lower than expected and inward foreign investment is up. There will have to be some spending cuts and national debt is high, but day-to-day Belgium is ticking along quite nicely thank you.
Yet for 414 days they have had no government. A coalition collapsed last April and since then the civil servants have quietly gone about their business and been quite good at it, freed from new legislation and taxes and election-winning stunts. They've chaired the presidency of the EU and helped out in the bombing of Libya and nothing's gone too wrong.
Do you remember the general election last year? No government for five days while politicians did their deals for a coalition, and actually not much governing going on for the six weeks before that because they were campaigning. There was no looting, everyone paid their taxes, and no-one much minded that the Queen was in charge of everything for the first time since 1642.
So that means it must be the politicians making a mess of everything. Who'da thunk it?
I take my hat off to them. I always thought Parliamentarians were pretty dense, mostly fat windbags of not much use. Turns out it's all a ruse and they have very cleverly persuaded us we need them - while charging us £136m a year in salaries and expenses. We even give them a subsidised bar.
It's actually sort of impressive, if by impressive you mean 'wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire'.
"The correct position of a journalist to a politician is that of a dog to a lamp-post."