Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Reblogged from my other blog, for those of you that might not see it there. Because I think it is important.


Children In Need.

For those of you who do not live in the UK, Children In Need is an annual BBC fundraiser, designed to raise money for local charities who would not otherwise get funding. The whole programming of BBC One, on a specific Friday evening, is given over to a telethon fundraiser, a night of varied entertainment, charity appeals, and live fundraising. It is presented by a group of popular celebrities, and traditionally features a host of well-known entertainers appearing in situations you would not usually associate them with. Like the stars of a drama series performing a dance routine, and so on.

During the build-up to this event, the UK is consumed with fund-raising events. Most of these are personal efforts, though many are corporate, involving well-known businesses and shops supporting the cause all over the country. Over the years it has been running, Children In Need has…

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Boris: Our national embarrassment?

I have no time for any Conservative politician, as you might expect given my obvious political leanings. But one above all is guaranteed to make me cringe, every time I see his face, read about his antics, or watch him being interviewed on TV. That person is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, better known as Boris Johnson, the Conservative member of parliament, former Mayor of London, and the current Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.

The mere fact that we present this wild-haired buffoon as the representative of this country is enough to get me riled. Then the fact that I share his (albeit common) surname makes me wish he had something as elaborate as his forenames instead. But what really gets to me, is that he pretends to be a clown. He acts stupid, trading on his shambolic appearance, and trademark unkempt hairstyle. He blusters and stutters, takes part in stunts and photo opportunities, and seems happy to allow himself to be viewed as a harmless figure of fun by all and sundry.

There are two reasons why this is unacceptable, and the first is that he is representing this country as our Foreign Secretary, our face to the world. The second reason is that none of it is true. It is all an act, a contrivance, a device. All set up to make him appear to be harmless, like some cuddly cartoon bear that inadvertently slipped into politics, and doesn’t know what he is doing.
Have a quick look at his background, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Born in New York City to wealthy upper-middle class English parents, Johnson was educated at the European School of Brussels, Ashdown House School, and Eton College. He studied Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1986.

Joining the Conservatives, he was elected MP for Henley in 2001, and under party leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron he was in the Shadow Cabinet.

During his first term as mayor of London, he banned alcohol consumption on public transport, championed London’s financial sector, and introduced the New Routemaster buses, cycle hire scheme, and Thames cable-car. In 2012, he was re-elected mayor, again defeating Livingstone; during his second term he oversaw the 2012 Summer Olympics.

After Theresa May became leader of the Conservatives and Prime Minister, Johnson was appointed as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 13 July 2016.

Does this look like the track record of a fool to you? I would regard it as the clever insinuations of a well-educated man looking for his moment to take the most powerful job in UK politics.

Don’t be fooled by Boris, and look behind the hype.

Brexit: The new Civil War

It seems my country is being consumed by the debate over the referendum result. Friends are falling out, families are divided, and the polarisation of opinion has rarely been seen in my lifetime. This is more than falling out over a vote. Much more than ‘agreeing to disagree’ about a point of view. There is a bitterness behind it all; a burning resentment, often bordering on hatred.

The sides have been chosen, the lines drawn in so many sands, and nobody will be shaken from their beliefs. Not since 1642 has this country felt such division, though this time the weapons are words, rather than swords and guns. There was a vote, and 48% of those who voted did not get the result they wanted, or perhaps more accurately, expected. Ever since, through the mainstream media, in parliament, on blogs, and in any way that they can, that 48% (and those who didn’t even bother to vote) have been trying to overturn the referendum. Meanwhile, they have stalled it, protested against it in the streets, and campaigned against it in every single way possible.
That is their right of course, in a democratic society that provided the referendum they lost.

But what if it had gone the other way, the way they wanted? Would these Remain advocates have tolerated such vociferous opposition from those who had voted to Leave, but lost? I suggest not.

Leave voters like myself are made to feel as if we are simply stupid, or much worse. Insults flow thick and fast.
We are racist.
We are xenophobes,
We are uneducated.
We are not politically aware.
We are not ‘travellers’.
We are overweight. (Yes, one study looked at average weight)
We live in places where foreigners are hated.
We are not urbane.
We have no sophistication.
We have no world view.
We are all Right-Wing supporters, little better than Nazis.
We yearn for Empire, so are imperialists at heart.

Even those who don’t insult us directly do so by default.
We were duped.
We were fooled.
We are mere pawns of big business.
We are sheep for the use of capitalists.
We didn’t understand the implications.
We couldn’t comprehend those big words.
It was our poor education that made us vote the ‘wrong way’.
We took too much notice of propaganda.
We believed everything we were told.
We couldn’t be expected to be bright enough to have made up our own minds.

The latest cry is that ‘Its not too late”. Well, for those of us who voted to Leave, it is too late. We voted to Leave, and that’s what we should be doing. If the referendum is overturned, it will be too late for the democratic process we supposedly live by, that’s for sure.

Of course, the Remain voters contained a higher percentage of university graduates. They were all free-thinkers, many of them urbane city-dwellers with the ‘correct attitude’. They are mulitculturalists at heart; well read, well travelled, and up to date on world events. They are the intelligentsia of this nation, the keepers of morals, and the libertarian ideals. The best of the best, undoubtedly.

But it is unlikely that 48% of the population here fit those criteria. Any more than the other 52% are what they are constantly accused of being. They lost that vote, and it is unlikely that they will ever forgive the people who voted the other way. The bitterness is tangible now, and set to last for a generation, or longer.

This new civil war is not over. It has a long way to go yet.

America: Gun control, and mass shootings.

The recent mass murder in Nevada has once again brought the subject of gun control into the media spotlight. Debates about the Second Amendment, the availability of converted weapons to fire on fully automatic, and the laws that mean some people, in some states, can own as many guns as they can afford to buy. In many American towns and cities, carrying guns at all times is completely legal. These can be openly displayed, or concealed about a person, depending on where you live. Background checks are random, and gun shops are often laid out like superstores of lethal weaponry.

I have many blogging friends who live in the USA. At least three of them own guns, and defend their right to do so, for various reasons. The most prominent of these being the fear of home invasion, robbery, burglary, a random attack in the street, or whilst driving. Given the proliferation of firearms of all kinds in that country, I can understand why these are real fears. As I have said before, I don’t have to live there. Another side to gun ownership is the action by the police, when apprehending suspects or attending 911 calls. They tend to presume that any culprit will be armed, and this generates a fear that manifests itself on occasion by the ‘shoot first’ policy that has caused so much outrage in that country. But if you were an American policeman, approaching a scene you were unsure of, then what would you do? We cannot really answer that, unless we have been in that situation.

Despite the recent uproar, the archaic Second Amendment is unlikely to be repealed. We have all heard the old arguments about that ‘Right to Bear Arms’.
“If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.
And many more…

But the fact is that banning personal ownership of guns will eventually make it harder for criminals to get them, whatever the arguments by the NRA. It is also indisputable that criminals and robbers will tend to carry guns more often if they believe that their intended target or victim is armed. And it is worth noting that the worst shooting atrocities in the USA are not carried out by criminals, or those from ethnic minorities. Most of them, including the recent Nevada shooting, are the work of white men, with apparently ‘normal’ lives, allowed to buy and accumulate weapons and ammunition in large numbers.
Carrying your pistol to fight off a street robber wouldn’t have done you much good against that determined sniper in a Las Vegas hotel, after all.

In the UK, in 1996, gun club member, and self-confessed ‘gun nut’, Thomas Hamilton entered a school in the small town of Dunblane, Scotland. He was carrying four legally-owned handguns. Two Browning Hi-Power 9 mm pistols, and two .357 magnum revolvers. He also had almost 750 rounds of extra ammunition. In the school gymnasium, he shot and killed sixteen children under the age of eleven, and one adult teacher, before shooting himself dead. The reason why he did this remains unknown. Following this shooting, the gun laws in Britain were radically revised, making it almost impossible to legally own a handgun.

These statistics from the Internet give some indication of the differences in gun deaths in the UK and the USA. They include Police shootings of suspects.
“In the United Kingdom, in the most recent year for which I have data (2011), the gun death rate from all causes was 0.23 per 100,000. That works out to about 145 in 2011.

In the United States, for the year 2014, the gun death rate from all causes was 10.54 per 100,000. That works out to 33,612 in 2014.

The UK gun death rate is one of the lowest in the world for the very simple reason that few people have guns.”

In one year alone, 2014, 33, 612 people died in America, as a result of someone using a gun. Just one year, and that was three years ago. It doesn’t include so many shooting incidents that have happened since. What will it take, for you to give up your guns, America?

The Other Floods

We are all concerned about the terrible effects of the hurricane that has hit Texas and Louisiana. Families left without homes, industry and traffic systems brought to a standstill, and a sad loss of life too. Constant news reports bring us updates about the rescue efforts, appeals for charitable donations, and the immense cost of rebuilding and recovery once the waters subside. Everyone affected has my genuine sympathy, and I cannot imagine what they must be going through.

But this is in the richest country on Earth. A country that has the means to throw billions of dollars at the problem. A country where its own president is so wealthy, he can afford to donate $1,000,000 of his own money to the relief fund, and not even blink. America has a vast infrastructure, and is able to call upon huge resources of manpower, industry, and equipment. Whatever the terrible conditions that currently prevail, we can rest assured that everyone will receive help of some kind, eventually.

On the other side of the world, there has also been flooding. Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries, has one third of its area under water. Over 50,000,000 inhabitants are directly affected, and more than 1,000 people have lost their lives. Whole towns and villages have disappeared, and the crops in the fields are all gone, destroyed by the still-rising flood waters. In Nepal, hundreds of thousands are homeless, and large parts of India are also affected. This is happening in an area without the means to cope. Countries with little or no infrastructure, no Blackhawk helicopters to evacuate stranded hospital patients, and without the means to provide most of those affected with basic aid, such as water and food.

Neither of these disasters is anybody’s fault. But one has happened in a place that can cope, and the other is still going on in places that cannot. Watching the news, you would have to search around for reports from Bangladesh. Somehow, stranded cars and pickup trucks, flooded urban highways, and military evacuations of victims seems to be more important, because it is happening in America. It is easy to forget those far-away countries, with languages and customs we don’t understand.

But their disaster is just as real.

Mexico wins the moral high ground

I have only just found out, but Mexico has made generous offers of help to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. The Mexican government expressed solidarity with the USA, and offered to send troops to aid with distribution of supplies, as well as providing medical teams and staff from rescue agencies.

This is the country that has been accused of so much by the current U.S. President, and the same country he wants to isolate America from, by building a wall along the border. There have been many appeals to help those suffering as a result of this hurricane. Donations to the Red Cross have been suggested, alongside many other disaster relief agencies. Mexico has offered unrestricted physical aid, and there is nothing to suggest that this is anything but genuine.

Not only did America decline this offer, Mr Trump took time to tweet that he will still build the wall, and will ensure that Mexico pays for its construction. Perhaps he should have been concentrating on sorting out this disaster in America’s fourth largest city, but no. Instead, he chose to be rude to a sovereign country and close neighbour, not only rejecting their offer out of hand, but dragging up the issues about the NAFTA trade deal and the wall at the same time.

Does he even know what ‘Diplomacy’ means?