Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Las Vegas - Can we stop asking why and focus on the how?

Feather dusters don't kill people. Nor do garden hoses. As a rule. That's not what they are for, anyway, and therefore they're quite clunky and inefficient as means of mass slaughter. Although, sure, a sufficiently driven and nasty human of average intelligence can use just about any tool for the purpose of killing. So yes, in that narrow sense alone, it's people who kill people.
But guns, and particulary semi-automatic weapons, are built with the sole purpose of maiming and killing. This is what they do, efficiently so. So when nearly 60 people are killed and 500 gravely injured by a single pensioner taking aim at them from a hotel window it seems reasonable to conclude that it's in fact the guns who should be the protagonists here, the salient detail, not whatever obsession, ideological delirium or personality disorder affected the human who pulled the trigger. A retired accountant with no army background. A nobody. Another angry old man -  among many other angry men, young men, middle aged ones, old ones, men of every hue and colour and background - with an inflated sense of grievance, or destinity, or of his own importance. Who gives a shit why? How is finding out why going to stop this happenig again? 
In Britain, Italy and in pretty much every other modern democracy we are replete with catankeous old men and angry young men, narcisists and wife beaters. There's no scarcity of nasty, violent, self-obsessed men (ooops, I mean people, of course!). Yet an old man would have a tough time murdering and maiming on that scale, in a matter of minutes, no matter how crazy or ideologically driven. 
So, again, it turns out that it's the availability and prevalence of guns - not immigrants, not Muslims, not even terrorists (who can thankfully be quite clumsy with explosives) that causes people to be killed in their hundreds with this regularity and inevitability. Give bad intentions, 'evil' , temporary insanity, male chauvinist pigs, you name it, a baseball bat and someone will get hurt but for a good old fashioned massacre you..... kinda need automatic weapons.
Today is not the time to have this conversation. The time was 15, 30 years ago before the US become so flooded with the bloody things that only mass confiscation, not restrictions on sales, is likely to make a substantial difference now. 
But still, going forward, you'd think it might be desirable to start mitigating against future senseless carnage as soon and as much as bloody possible, don't you? 
Yet the country that forces the likes of me to declare we are not Nazi war criminals on entry and frowns on 120ml bottles of shampoo can't have that conversation. Its politicians' hands are tied, mainly with dollars, and its media is pitifully muted on the subject, so that its citizens come to believe they do live in the best/most rational of all possible worlds, like the starving North Koreans who think it's the rest of us who are having a tough time. (This reminds me of those ridiculous US commentators spewing nonsense against 'Socialised Medicine'. Ask any European if they mind NOT having to choose between between eating and paying the morgage or getting cancer treatment. Go on, see what they say.). 
In the cacophony of bullshit platitudes about prayers and unity and resilience and the courage of first responders the NRA ayatollahs still won't release their grip on the levers of US democracy. They didn't after first graders were felled at Sandy Hook, they won't do it now. They can afford to fuel several 9/11s every year with no consequence, no censure of any kind, barely a whisper of a timid debate. Policy makers can't even collect the right statistics on gun crime.
The ultimate form of terrorism, it seems to me, is when a mature democracy reduces its own citizens to the status of living target practice for the convenience of its gun industry. It's an awfully big gamble, even by Vegas standards.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Opinions on shape of Nazis differ

This morning I heard Today's presenter John Humphrys ask BBC North American EditorJon Sopel whether there was any "factual truth, though, in the President's assertion that there was violence on the other side too".
Humphrys wasn't asking a political contributor a devil' s advocate question. He was talking to a fellow BBC journalist who, to his shame, engaged with the question.
So, to recap, your licence fee now pays for senior BBC journalists earnestly to discuss whether anti-racist protesters objecting to an armed and intimidating neo-Nazi and KKK invasion of the public space could be described as 'as violent', and therefore morally reprehensible if not morally equivalent to the Nazis themselves.
I'm no longer sure how John Humphrys would have covered the Second World War - Churchill's speeches say*, Bletchley Park*, the Resistance* - particularly under the editorship of Sarah Sands.
Reflexive neo liberal right-wingery, fueled by hatred of redistribution - oops, I meant the left - in any form, is now chasing its own tale, fouling its own patriotic foundation myth: we are better than them (enter any nationality/value here) because we fought the Nazis/at least we are not Nazis.
Fighting the Nazis is officially a dodgy pursuit not just in Trump's America but also in May's (Brexit) Britain.
*Rabble-rouser, Hackers' Central, violent extremists????

Friday, 28 July 2017

Reasons why Britain will likely be utterly screwed in these EU negotiations - No 658

The Department for Exiting the European Union, DExEU, with its Spanish Inquisition- like acronym, seems run like a cross between a masonic lodge and a (minor) Cosa Nostra family that barely survived the latest drug war and is on the run from all the other families.
A year after its creation they've only just managed to appoint a Special Adviser to the Secretary of State (David "I don't carry notes" Davis) who is also his Chief of staff, meaning David "Notebooks are for losers. It's all 'up here', so it is!!" Davis has been without either all this time. The chap in question is a Tory Brexiteer who lost his seat at the last election- we'll glide over the symbolism there.
But here's the thing: no one - or at least none of my contacts in various think-tanks, public affairs companies and Parliament - seems to know how you get in touch with people there.
Needing to invite some top mandarins from DExEU to an event I resorted to calling their press office (it was the only number provided on the website) and was told they 'they think' the email addresses follow the pattern name.surname@dexeu.gov.uk but they could not confirm. I found another number for the Department on Dods' Vacher's Guide and proceeded to be connected to the very same press officer who told me they "don't have a receptionist" and to basically stop wasting her time.
In desperation I called a number appearing on the bottom of an email (address @cabinetoffice.gov.uk) of a top DExEU civil servant who once took part in one of our events and the phone was answered by a Polish lady who announced I was speaking to the Cabinet Office. I tried to ascertain with her whether I should invite her boss with the @dexeu email address or a @cabinetoffice email address and she told me, somewhat flustered, to 'try both'. I was then passed on to a more senior colleague who said he thought the other top civil servants I was trying to reach were 'probably' at both addresses but he didn't know for sure because 'they hadn't been in touch for some time'.
Why would, after all, the office of the DExEU Director of Analysis ever wish to speak to the office of the DeXEU Director of Market Access and Budget or the DExEU Director of Cross-Government Policy Coordination?
Why wold you make sure there was a receptionist on duty at all times and a streamlined, coherent suite of email addresses, making it easy for MPs, stakeholders or god forbid, European apparatchiks or even expert riff-raff to reach the Department by phone or email during the gigantic negotiations which are its sole reason to exist?
Once the nice Polish lady is deported they won't even have enough competent, hard working EU migrants to man the ship.
Move on, nothing to see here. Literally.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Scenes from (the end of) a Marriage

As a Brexit bill is presented to the Mother of Parliaments I'll attempt to illustrate Britain's EU divorce psychodrama for the benefit of my continental friends.


The build-up

You're fat and ugly and I never loved you. 

You got me under false pretenses. How was I to know that by walking to that church, having invited our families and friends, by reciting those words and exchanging those rings I would be MARRIED to you? I thought we were getting a curry, or something. 

I want out. And when I go, I'll stay gone. I've had enough of your shrill, demanding ways.


Ahead of divorce proceedings

No point dragging this out: let's come to an amicable understanding and sod the lawyers.

Of course, I'm not prepared to pay any financial settlement. I owe you nothing. NOTHING you hear? The fact that I was in mess financially before we married and my net worth has massively improved since has NOTHING to do with our partnership.

The kids

What  about our many kids, you say? I'm of course prepared to recognise and take credit for the achievements of the inventor, the award winning artist, the techie wizard and the budding entrepreneur. I might be willing to contribute towards their research grant/seed money/ university fees. But the glue-sniffing obsessive-compulsive masturbator who's been stealing from our petty cash is your problem. He can't possibly be mine. 

Divorce proceedings

The way I see it, there are are two ways of going about it: 

1) We can come to an amicable understanding in next to no time - say the length of a rumba on Strictly? This really should be a breeze because, when all is said and done, it's in your interest to give me exactly what I want as you need me much more than I need you. Or...

2) .....I'll come round in the dead of night with a Kalashnikov, kick your door in and shoot myself in the foot right in front of you. You won't like that, will you? Think of all the blood and the gore... And I'll refuse to go to hospital and I'll just limp on my bloodied stump for the rest of my life just to SHOW YOU!

Seeing other people

Look, before we met I had 'dated' most of the rest of the world, whether they liked it or not. I'll be a very hot commodity indeed when I'm back on the market. Just saying.

Your loss is my future girlfriends' gain. Yes, girlfriends, PLURAL. Take that, you frigid cow!


The recap

So, really, there's nothing to this. It's a lark. A doddle. A bit of a joke, even. Things will both exactly the same and much better than before. Or Armageddon. Depending. No way of saying. Can't be sure. But it will be your fault either way. 

By the way, I can still bang you whenever I want, right? It doesn't even count as sex if I don't fancy you (which I don't). It's basically exercise.



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