Podcast 62: A call to The Duke of Edinburgh on a premium rate line

The story about Dial-A-Royal fascinated me – so I have done a companion podcast version of “One just called to say hello” -  (complete with a special ringtone)  of my conversation with The Duke of Edinburgh – purely imaginary, of course….

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Listen to Podcast 62:  In conversation with The Duke of Edinburgh on a premium rate phoneline.

The text version is below and linked above.

One just called to say hello….

Last month the news broke that Gordon Brown was making phonecalls to unsuspecting members of the British public. Yesterday, the News of The World reported that The Queen had been thinking about setting up premium rate phone lines to allow the British public to call and get a message from the Royals – to help pay for the double glazing at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

The News of The World story is bizarre… I give you but a brief taste:

“The Queen’s team had several strategies planned for making the dial-a-royal scheme work. Loyal subjects could ring in and PLEDGE their dosh, along with their allegiance, to the cause. Or they could call a pricey PREMIUM RATE number and listen to a personal plea and thank-you from Her Majesty. The longer they stayed on the line, the more they’d donate.”

I happened to imagine making a premium rate call to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Charon: Hello… is that The Duke of Edinburgh?

Duke: Yes… who the bloody hell are you?

Charon: A member of the British public.

Duke: A what?  Are you British?, do you have any money and, if so, how much do you want to pledge?

Charon: How much are you trying to raise?

Duke: £32 million and if that goes well, perhaps a bit more on top.  That insufferable prime minister doesn’t want to give us any more money and the hices are crumbling… rotting away.

Charon: Hice?… what is a hice?

Duke: It’s where we live.  Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham, Balmoral.  Our hices.

Charon: Ah… got you.  Any of your hices burned down again yet?  Mind you, not many Royals smoke now and those who did are all departed. Have you considered a bit of Jewish lightning?

Duke: What?   What is Jewish lightning?

Charon: A Jewish friend of mine told me about this years ago – a bit of arson, subtle…  and then claim on the insurance.

Duke: Good grief man!  We can’t do anything like that!  Now are you going to cough up or not?

Charon: I’m afraid not… a bit short at the moment, like everyone else in the country – but good to talk.  Bye.

Duke: Bugger orf….

Podcast 61: With Chris Haywood – future barrister and musician…

Today I am talking to Chris Haywood who has just completed his GDL and intends to do the BVC in September. Chris has joined the UK blawgers with his new blog “RocknLaw”…. and is a member of the band – PIANO.

We talk about the GDL, have a brief musical interlude with one of Piano’s songs – Home is where the heart is – talk about the band, music and then get back to a bit of Law. The podcast ends with another extract from Piano – Two wrongs don’t make a right.

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Listen to Podcast 61: With Chris Haywood… future barrister and musician

West London Man (15): 15 – love to George….

Audio version – West London Man (15) : 15 – Love to George

The English summer continues. Ascot has, thankfully, passed into memory and George has two tickets to watch the Murray v Haas game at Wimbledon. Caroline has tickets for the second week. George, it has to be said, has absolutely no interest in Tennis. His tastes are for full contact sports like rugby, but even George was surprised when a New Zealand mate of his phoned from New Zealand to name the four England players, allegedly involved in absolutely nothing at all, and certainly nothing of note in terms of exciting play or even vaguely interesting or diverting opposition against the All Blacks, and then moved on to talk about spit-roasting.

Caroline has been offered a post by her ex-boss and is spending the day at her old office to get a feel for things before making a decision on whether to accept the offer.

George has invited Rick, a musician who enjoyed some success with a band in the eighties. They arrived at Wimbledon shortly after 2.00. Two women were playing tennis, so George and Rick went off for some drinks and a bit of Class A

Rick: I can’t stand f******g tennis. Why are we here? I mean look at ‘em. The place is crawling with chinless wonders, and…. see those two caber tossers with the Scottish flag painted on their faces. I mean… who the f**k plays tennis in Scotland?

George: Apparently the guy with the curly hair is a Scot… Andy Morgan… or something…. No… I can’t stand tennis either, but free tickets are free tickets – and they come with £200 in crisp twenties for drinks which should see us through. Champagne?

Rick: Nah…. I want some Pimms…. undiluted…. on the rocks and no F*****g fruit. I’ll have an umbrella in it though. I’m off to the bog for a sharpener.

Rick nips off to the lavatories to powder his nose. George organises the drinks and buys Rick a treble Pimms on the rocks. There were no umbrellas available at the Bar for the drink, so George put the Wimbeldon Lawn Tennis Club umbrella supplied with the tickets into the tall glass of Pimms and opened it up ready for Rick’s return. People nearby look on with mild disdain. Their disdain was soon to turn to severe disdain and a lot of middle class muttering and clucking. Rick returns, sees the Wimbledon umbrella stuffed in his glass of Pimms and starts laughing maniacally… and very quickly.

George: I’ll be right back. This is a bit of a Class A joint… so when in Rome…. time to get the Dyson out.

Rick: OK…see you in a mo, mate.

The two men drink for about an hour, talking quickly at each other, glance occasionally at others wandering about not watching the tennis, and get fairly drunk. Rick didn’t enjoy his Pimms so he went and bought a couple of double Vodkas for himself and a bottle of Champagne for George. He also bought some strawberries, mashed them into a pulp with his fist, licked the strawberry juice off his hand and poured the pulped strawberries into his two glasses of Vodka. After several more visits to the lavatory and further drinks orders, the two men make their way out to their seats for the Centre Court Murray v Haas match. The game starts soon after.

George: Come on Tim!….

Rick: Who is Tim?

George: He’s over there in The Royal Box.

Rick: Yeah… but who is he?

George: A tennis player…. he didn’t win Wimbledon…. . but few do. In fact, if you think about it… only one person a year can win Wimbledon… he was a good player but just did not make it despite the hopes of a nation…. but made piles of cash being British about not winning…..

Rick: Bit like most of us in the rock biz.

George: Same with our lot, really… in fact probably true of most people. A lot of people are pretty useless at what they do and get paid for it. I mean take newsreaders. Why do they earn shedloads for reading?

Rick: Yeah, mate…. same with Gordon Brown… “Started well, f****d up, still in power….. and he complains about that buffoon Mugabe being elected with no opposition candidate!”

George: You have a point…. not a great point, and certainly not set point, but a point nevertheless… and does it matter?… they’re all on the make… dodgy expenses, nannies who can’t type doubling as secretaries…. failing to comply with their own regulations….

Rick: Yeah… and some of those f*****s also cycle and don’t stop at red lights, ride on the pavement and cycle the wrong way down one way streets….C***s…

George: Yes… they are…. F**k I’m pissed…. that tennis ball is going incredibly fast…. Well done Tim!… play up… play up… play the game.

Rick: Who is Tim?…. ah… F**k it… I can’t watch this shit… I’m going back to the bar… fancy a drink?

George: Yes…. this is tedious.

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Audio version – West London Man (15) : 15 – Love to George

Podcast 60: Professor Geoffrey Alderman on why academic standards are declining.

Podcast 60: Professor Geoffrey Alderman on why academic standards are declining.

Today I am talking to Professor Geoffrey Alderman, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History at The University of Buckingham and a former Chairman of the University of London’s academic council

Professor Alderman wrote a fascinating article in The Times on 18th June A grotesque bidding game is undermining university standards” – confronting the issue of degree inflation, the pressure on lecturers to mark examinations leniently and the issue of plagiarism.

Professor Alderman stated in The Times: “Academic standards are in decline in many British universities. Students who would once have been failed their degrees pass, and students who would once have been awarded respectable lower seconds are now awarded upper seconds and even firsts.”

I ask Geoffrey Alderman about the evidence for his statement about declining standards. We also discuss plagiarism, cheating and the rise of essay writing services. For anyone involved in legal or other education, Professor Alderman’s discussion with me is well worth listening to. His views are robust, direct and to the point – refreshingly so.

Listen to the podcast: Professor Geoffrey Alderman on why academic standards are declining.

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Professor Geoffrey Alderman’s website

A compliment indeed…

What About Clients?… now, calling itself “What About Paris?” is a serious U.S. blog about legal practice – but with a proclivity to go off piste in style. J Dan Hull and his co-bloggers / phantasms do much to promote blawging internationally and have a tolerance, some may say, appetitie, for UK Blawging. Certainly J Dan Hull has an interest in doing Antler dances with Ruthie of Ruthie’s Law – and… who knows what he will do to Geeklawyer when Geeklawyer produces his July 4th version of Blawg Review.

In the meantime… I feel honored (note the American spelling) to be described, this day, as “Albion’s Hunter Thompson”Wikipedia has a view.

Weekend Review 20-21 June: Wimbledon edition

In but a few short days… tennis and strawberry fanciers will gather on hallowed ground to watch another game we invented, and go through between one day to a week and a bit of agony, gasping as Brit wild card players disappear fairly early and pin their hopes on a young Scot. Why we expect, these days, to win any game we invented is one of the great paradoxes of the British character.

Henman Hill will be replaced by Murray Mount. Strawberries will be eaten. The middle classes and corporate hospitality wallahs will gorge themselves on the rain racked, wind blown, tennis part of the summer season – and thoughts of stagflation, recession and doom will be placed on the back of the metaphorical Aga. All will be well. For a few weeks after Wimbledon, the leafy streets of West London (and other parts of the country) will be awash with enthusiastic people carrying tennis rackets, wandering off to play a few sets of an evening and some of those will be making visits to chiropracters and physiotherapists soon after.

It matters not… it is part of the pattern of life…. and it is unlikely that any of our tennis players will be embarrassing themselves or the nation, by engaging in ‘spit-roasting’ and other sexual antics in hotel rooms with young women.

Burnham apologies to Chakrabarti
Culture Secretary, Andrew Burnham, has apologised to Shami Chakrabarti. This is sensible, if rather unfortunate for the litigation side of the legal profession.

Judge tells Brown to delay ratification of EU treaty until result of court challenge

While we work on the theoretical premise that the Lisbon Treaty cannot operate until all 27 members have ratified – and, of course Ireland has said “NO” – we completed our parliamentary process last week – but then, a bolt from the courts. The Mail has the full story. It is too tedious on a Saturday night to quote.

Briefly: Government writes to Court to let them know that Britain is about to ratify. Lord Justice Richards writes back inviting the government to stay ratification until the court hands down judgment on a case brought by a millionaire who objected to the fact that we did not get a referendum. The only interesting thing, from my jaded perspective, was the wonderful statement that … ” If ministers declined to issue such an assurance, the judge said he would be ready to hear an application from Mr Wheeler for an injunction to prevent ratification.”

And now is the Winterton of our discontent… made glorious summer…

Guido Fawkes has an amusing post on the greed of MPs. I quote:

“The mortgage on the Winterton’s Belgravia flat purchased in the mid-nineties was paid by the taxpayers for a decade. However the generosity of the taxpayers wasn’t enough for them… By 2002 they were the owners of a now mortgage free property in very good repair (we paid for the repairs) worth some £700,000, yet the Wintertons had a problem. There was no longer a mortgage to justify a housing allowance, meaning that tens of thousands of pounds that they had been claiming annually would no longer be claimable.”

I was at a bit of a loose end tonight so I popped over to “Lords of The Blog” – a blog from various members of The House of Lords. The Blog does not have the immediate ‘grippability’ of The Apprentice – but it does provide a bit more nourishment than Ant & Dec on a Saturday night or Britain’s Got Talent. I enjoy reading the blog – some rather interesting posts.

Tonight, Lord Norton was posting about the 42 Days detention without trial issue. Lord Norton reminded us that “The House of Lords does not exist to act as a conduit for public opinion, but neither is it oblivious to what people think.” He went on to state that it was unlikely the Lords would get round to dealing with the matter before the summer recess. Fortunately we have David Davis and his by-election against some woman called Lady Madcow to keep the matter before the public. Kelvin “Gotcha” Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun, seems to have dropped out.

Lord Norton ended his post with the statement: “Given that, we could always take the line ‘well, let us pass it and leave it to the courts to deal with’. That would be an abdication of our responsibilities. If we believe it to be unjustified, then we have to vote accordingly. We may be wrong, and unpopular, but unless there is a strong case made, which we have so far not heard, I for one will not be supporting the provision.”

Right… enough for the moment. It is time to reflect… with a glass of Rioja.

The summer solstice

And so the sun rose over West London, as it does every day, but this morning was different. It is the summer solstice. King Arthur Pendragon lives down the road. I know this – I have a few drinks with him every so often down at The Bollo. Today, King Arthur is, presumably, down at Stonehenge. I am not at Stonehenge. I am in the bunker at my Staterooms, but  I am up and marvelling at the way the sun rises in the sky… It is far too early to have a glass of Rioja and… in any event… turning up at a local pub at 8.30 to watch the All Blacks run riot with England at rugby, roaring on arrival and talking of solstices and druids, may have caused my Haka doing friends to go back to New Zealand.

The day has begun… and there is much to enjoy this day.

On liberty…..

The Evening Standard reports that “Civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti threatened to sue Cabinet minister Andy Burnham today over “smears” about her links to Tory David Davis.” Story

Briefly… Burnham, regarded as bringing a degree of humour to what seems to be an otherwise humourless Brown led Labour government, made unfortunate remarks about Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty and David Davis who resigned as an MP and was promptly replaced by WebCameron as shadow home secretary.

The Evening Standard report indicates that – “Culture Secretary Mr Burnham triggered the row last night by claiming that Mr Davis had shared “late night, handwringing, heart-melting phone calls” with Ms Chakrabarti as they opposed the Government’s anti-terror plans.”

Chakrabarti has demanded an apology – read the story for details.

While Burnham is “aghast” – it was both tactless and rather naive to comment in such a way. Labour MP Diane Abbott made the point that if the director of Liberty had been a man, Burnham would probably not have made the remark.

Ridiculous nonsense on the part of a government minister. MPs should leave the one liners to the professionals.

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Off-pissed Update 11.45 pm: This Week, an amusing politics programme, has been delayed until 12.15 because of the f*****g football coverage. Why do we have to have so much bloody football on TV?…. the football hooligans are all out at this time of night keeping the police busy….. I may have to write to the BBC to complain…

The only interesting thing, from my point of view – I can’t stand football – about Euro 2008, is that the Swiss played the Nazi version of the German National Anthem the other night as part of their coverage. Switzerland … nil points…

The football bores are still droning on…. I can’t seem to see Ingerland or any other British team taking part in this competition. Did we vote “NO” to participating? … or were our footballers just F*****g useless and not qualify? I shall consult Google tomorrow and find out the answer.

Further update: It is 12.01 pm. Charon is in the Diary Room over refreshed. Football bores are droning on about dribbling…. some Scots guy has been boring for Edinburgh or Glasgow about the finer points of something. They are not even showing footage of footballers footballing and committing fouls… just bores droning on. Where has that guy with the moustache and big chin gone? You know the one?… Jimmy Hill who looked remarkably like not to be knighted Bruce Forsyth.

“Switzerland 1 – Turkey nil” shouted some hyperventilating commentator… I don’t care…. … drones are back on… I give up…. I’m going to use my remote control and flick over to The Parliament Channel for the next ten minutes …. at least, provided they are showing something from the Commons, I will be able to listen to elected bores droning on…

Royal Ascot: The Fascinator…

It is quite possible that some readers, following Royal Ascot in the press or on television, may have come across the “Fascinator”.

I have to admit, as I have absolutely no interest in anything running along a track, whether olympic athlete, greyhound or horse, that I had no idea what a “fascinator” is.

I was assisted by The Daily Telegraph: “The general theory is that a fascinator is neither a hat nor a feather but something somewhere in between, which, for the benefit of the more practical- minded, won’t keep your hair dry if it rains.”

This seems an entirely ludicrous, impractical, marvellously eccentric and English garment to buy and wear. So, to assist my readers, I have one – and here it is. If it gets me into Royal Ascot – I should be fine down at The Bollo… n’est ce pas?

I regret that I am unable to do any sensible posts today – apart from a very sensible podcast with Norman Baird (Infra) which I managed to do before my fascinator cut off my blood supply and I broke into my drinks cabinet. .

Podcast 59: LLB Degree inflation with Norman Baird, QEDLaw

Podcast 59: LLB Degree inflation with Norman Baird of QEDLaw

Today I am talking with Norman Baird about his extensive research into LLB degree inflation in recent years.  His findings are published on his QEDlaw blog and are well worth reading if you have an interest in legal education.

Norman is keen to encourage debate and involvement from students, recent graduates and, indeed, practitioners and academics.  He is also more than happy to give advice on how to construct Freedom of Information Act requests – simply email him from his blog

Listen to Podcast 59: LLB degree inflation with Norman Baird of QEDLaw

Visit the QEDlaw blog to read the research results

West London Man (14): Royal Ascot – First Day

Audio podcast version: West London Man 14: Royal Ascot

The Summer Season progresses and today is the first day of Royal Ascot. George has taken the day off to take Caroline to the races. George did a great deal of research, read the website carefully, and decided to go with a black Silk top hat.

The car arrived at 10.00 and by 11.30 and George and  Caroline were in a car park greeting friends, also from West London. The champagne was on ice. George had tried his best to hire the Butler who was reported today in a Telegraph report about an unfair dismissal case throwing tantrums and smashing crockery because he did not want to do the washing up – but to no avail.

An early lunch was taken. A catering agency provided the victuals and a butler.

Caroline was talking to a close friend about returning to work. George was in a group of men, all from the City, talking about Barclays and HBOS. George then took one of the group to one side to have a private conversation.

George: Jonny… I think Caroline may be having an affair.

Jonny (Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford): Really? What makes you think so?

George: Long lunch with her ex-boss… she’s thinking of going back to work… told me that she was meeting up with a girlfriend in the evening… but called the girlfriend to speak to Caroline on the pretext that I couldn’t get through on Caroline’s mobile. She wasn’t with Caroline and not quick enough to cover.

Jonny: I see. And… what are your thoughts on this?… laissez-faire?… licence to yourself?… I mean, you’re not exactly a saint. Not a great time for divorce and financial settlements, I wouldn’t have thought.

George: Divorce?… no way. No… I’m quite pleased as it happens…

One of the other men walked over, already mildly over refreshed, and the moment of confidences was gone. Lunch was completed and the group wandered off to watch the races. The Queen arrived in a Landau drawn by grey horses. The BBC commentator muttered something about the fact the horses had been at The Trooping of The Colour on Saturday and that the livery worn by the horsemen was peculiar to Royal Ascot.

The party watched the jockeys being paraded for the crowds’s attention – a Royal Ascot first – and George asked one of the group where Becher’s Brook was, only to be informed that it was in Liverpool. George was not phased by this information and wandered over to talk to Caroline.

George: Enjoying it?

Caroline: It’s great… you?

George: Absolutely… I’m going to wonder about… have a look around.

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George grabbed a bottle of champagne, filled his glass and wandered off, taking the bottle with him. He had walked but fifty yards or so when his iphone rang.

George: Hello

Katja: I can see you… you are about fifty yards away. How are you George?

George stopped in his tracks, quickly scanned the crowd and saw Katja standing ina  group of men wearing grey top hats. She was the only woman in the group.

George: Katja… got you… who are the guys?

Katja: Bankers… a partner from a City law firm and a partner from an accountancy firm. How goes it?

George: It goes well…. can you get away… place a bet or something, powder your nose?

Katja laughed: I can do all three… shall we both powder our noses?

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Audio podcast version: West London Man 14: Royal Ascot

17 June: daily news podcast and news…

Independent: Lecturers ‘pressed to boost degree results’
The Independent reports that Degree standards in many British universities are in danger of collapsing because lecturers are under pressure to “mark positively” and turn a blind eye to plagiarism, the man who was in charge of safeguarding standards at Britain’s largest university will say today

Daily news podcast and news now up on Insitelaw newswire

Mea culpa… no blogging today…

Apologies…. haven’t had time to blog today.

Got up, read the news for Insitelaw etc etc, and then found myself on a bus heading towards Windsor. Got on the wrong bus… clearly …. as I had intended to go to Hammersmith. Quite an enjoyable day out, as it happens. Met a few people – got to dress up.

Met a most amusing man who asked me if I’d mind putting on some robes and stand in for him. Happy to help, as always. Told me a few off-colour jokes and then legged it.

Weekend Review 14-15 June: A week to remember for a very long time….

Having just done a podcast with LawMinx (infra and right), I was going to go and watch Ray Mears tell me how to survive in the outback of Australia on BBC. Having footled about in my youth making fire with stone age tools for real, collecting water in plastic bags from tree leaves and having shot small mammals to live – I decided that I would be better employed opening a bottle of Rioja and blogging.

Also – next door, my Brazilian neighbours are having a party and they have live music. They are singing (drunkenly) along to “Twist and Shout” – so unless I turn my television up to levels where my neighbours on the other side think I am about to get Alzheimer because I have gone deaf as a precursor – no television for me tonight.

So… what a week we have just had!

The government won the vote, lost the argument on 42 days and David Davis decided to risk all by resigning as Home Secretary – prompting WebCameron to replace him immediately with Dominic Grieve who then promptly re-iterated everything that Davis was saying – or it may have been Tory Central Office.

The neighbours are now singing “Happy Birthday” – and this has reminded me that today is the anniversary of Magna Carta Libertatum. My blog piece on this and David Davis’ brave stance may be read here if you don’t have the energy or inclination to scroll down.

Oh… and if you are worrying why I appear to have an X-ray image of a naked woman on my blog – in a departure from the norm – it is a picture from a new airport security scanner. They are coming to an airport near you soon – and may well be deployed elsewhere. That should keep the operators busy. Thankfully I have nothing to hide. The news covered this story earlier in the week.

And then we had 42 days and the Irish kicking the EU Lisbon Treaty into touch. Fortunately, I was able to draw on the greater expertise of Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal blog, to bring light. I did two podcasts with him: 42 Days | Irish vote “NO” to Lisbon Treaty. The Irish have been very busy with their spanners and putting them into not just Europe – but the DUP, described as ‘undertakers to government’ by Shirley Williams on Question Time the other night – assisted Labour with the shameful 42 day detention without charge extension.

So disconsolate was I after the 42 day detention vote – I had to do a special episode of Charon After Dark. For this – I reported from a helicopter over West London and sang a version of The Teddy Bear’s picnic. I’m afraid you will have to listen to the podcast if you wish to hear me sing – it is not pretty.

And… to cap it all – this would just have to be the week when Friday 13th fell last Friday. This inspired me to do West London Man (13): Friday 13th – and a podcast with some rather good and apprpriate music.

well.. there we are. I’m sorry it is a bit of a review of the world from my rather bizarre perspective – but…. I may just have time to catch up and find out how to survive in London on locusts, frogs, nettle soup and other delicacies – if I watch the last 15 minutes of Ray Mears goes Walkabout!

Normal service will be resumed…. possibly…. but I am looking forward to Kelvin “Freddie Starr ate my Hamster” Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun, standing against david Davis in the forthcoming by-election. Should be fascinating.

Podcast 58: The BVC, pupillage interviews and life.. with LawMinx

Tonight, as Brazilian live music plays in the next door garden, I did a podcast with LawMinx. LawMinx has finished the BVC, continues to work on her Ph.D research and is about to embark on the post OLPAS round of pupillage interviews. We do, actually, manage to talk about the BVC and pupillage…. but then we started talking about Twitter…. my monkey / gorilla, Tempranillo, who handles my Twitter posts for me, and talk about life generally. We interrupt each other from time to time – but that is the nature of podcast interviews done over the net telephone – and I enjoyed it. I did my best to get the conversation back to the BVC.

Listen to: Podcast 58: The BVC, pupillage interviews and life… with LawMinx.

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We also talk about blogging and the upcoming UK Blawgers conference at a pub in London in August. I assured LawMinx that Geeklawyer, who is organising this seminal event again this year (we are grateful),  has been doing detailed and penetrating research – and performing selfless acts of devotion on our behalf in the name of blawging freedom.