How many more?

I’m not naturally a fan of Piers Morgan (who is), but something clicked yesterday (don’t worry, I will get back to this original point). Admittedly I’d spent a very long time at work, (same lifeguard in two days was over half an hour late to relieve me from poolside, not a happy bunny) I was listening to the radio on the way home and I just happened to stumble upon the speech being delivered to a press conference by Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This was then followed by an NRA spokesperson being interviewed live on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Even now, over 24 hours after hearing these two men, I’m still struggling to comprehend and properly articulate a response to the sheer detachment from reality and supreme level of wheedling these two men committed. In case you missed either men, LaPierre advocated that US schools should be guarded by armed guards and that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”. The latter blamed gun violence in the US on mental health issues and lack of proper treatment.

At this point I was seething in the car. Now, I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I have a pretty good idea of what the problems are. No Mr LaPierre, giving “good guys” gun to stop “bad guys” is not a good idea. You see Mr LaPierre, I’ve never had crack cocaine for breakfast, one because I never would, but mainly as I don’t keep it in the fridge. I’ve never been butchered by my slave’s in a bloody uprising, primarily by not keeping slaves. Because you know what Mr LaPierre, not having the means to commit crimes is a far better method to preventing gun homicides than simply believing everyone should arm themselves in the name of mutual deterrents.

I’m not advocating outright banning of guns in US right now, as like I said, I don’t have all the answers and there’s a chance there’d be a backlash against such a move. But when you live in a country where there’s no nation-wide policy on firearms this allows dangerous people to easily buy guns from other states without any background checks and then bring them into other neighboring states. The system also has no check for those “good guys” who you so uphold Mr LaPierre who may turn dangerous (and indeed they do, for whatever reason). It gives no account on a federal level for other members of a family who may own firearms (as what happened with the latest Connecticut shootings). And Mr LaPierre, you live in a country where there are roughly 300 millions guns or 89 firearms per 100 civilians and have an average death toll of around 10,000 gun homicides a year (roughly 3.2 deaths from guns per 100,000 people). This is in direct contrast to countries like here in the UK or in Japan, (countries you probably believe have “bad guys” running around unchecked) have roughly 6 and 0.6 guns per 100 civilians respectively yet have a mere 0.1 and <0.01 deaths by firearms per 100,000 people respectively.

I’m sick and tired of hearing such divorced ideas from reality that if you give people more guns there’ll be less gun crime. This is something that really struck me with Piers Morgan, I actually agreed with him on something:

Like I said, I don’t have all the answers, but how many more people are going to have needlessly die before the likes of Mr LaPierre realise that having more guns to solve gun crime is an absurd idea?

Max

firearms 3

For Jack Matthew’s benefit (and yes, Norway is included).

A much delayed Paul Ryan reaction.

Sorry for the long loooong hiatus we’ve had here at BULS. But hey, A-level results are in and we may as well set a tone and good impression for those students (and potential future BULS members) that will be joining the University of Birmingham in a month’s time.

So, with the US Presidential race entering it’s final stages Romney has finally played one of his last cards (so to speak), Congressman Paul Ryan. Well, daring dynamic or damp squib of a running mate? Well thankfully at least, the American public have so far opted for the latter with Ryan failing to provide any real boost to Romney’s campaign. Ryan may well give Romney a boost in the single Vice-Presidential debate given his reputation as a ‘numbers guy‘. Having Chaired the House Budget Committee in the House of Representative since January 2011 Ryan does have the potential to give Romney the detailed policy and authority he has so lacked up until now. However, Ryan, like Palin (though probably to a lesser extent) still has the potential to be the Republican nominee’s undoing….as can be seen here:

  1. Voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (A strong step in the right direction for equality in pay for women).
  2. Voted 59 times(!!) against abortion in Congress. (And yes, this is a bad thing as I’ve addressed previously).
  3. Voted to cut all Federal funding to the amazing organisation that is Planned Parenthood.

Now I accept these political stances, as disgusting as I may find them may not always quite enrage the American people, there are some ideas that Ryan believes that potentially could:

  1. Ryan’s budget proposals as a Chair of the House Budget Committee effectively sought the end of Medicare. (Turning it into an effective voucher system which is HUGELY unpopular amongst senior citizens…a high turnout demographic especially in the key swing state of Florida).
  2. His budget proposals would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs (over at least 10 years, but I could be wrong on that specific number).
  3. And at the same time cut taxes for the wealthiest in American society (an equally unpopular idea).

Still believe Ryan will be a game changer for Romney? Well I sincerely hope not, but you never know when it comes to the often intellectual backwardness of American politics.

Max

FYI: for those wondering why I’m still ‘blogging’ here, why you might think, “Didn’t Max graduate last July…isn’t he no longer a student.” Well yes and no. I did graduate last July but I will be returning to the University of Birmingham (and BULS) this September to train as a Primary School Teacher, so will ‘Ramsay’s F Word’ will see one last final year out of it.

Santorum Pulls Out

A belated comment from me, because I’ve overdone it on caffeine and can’t sleep. If you hadn’t already heard, Rick Santorum, latest incarnation of the US extreme-right, has suspended his presidential campaign. This is slightly earlier than I had expected; as a political geek and election junkie I’m disappointed. There were so many contestable primaries still to go, with most of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states due on the 24th of this month. Shame on the anti-choice candidate for aborting his campaign and not carrying it to full term!

As far as I can make out, Santorum has two positive qualities. 1) He’s seemingly quite fond of a drink before noon, and 2) he wears those lovely sleeveless jerseys (great for keeping your core body snug while letting your arms and armpits breath!) I liked having an “underdog” candidate in the race, and I was sympathetic to his plight of being massively outspent by the Romney campaign.

Copyright from left: Jim Wilson/The New York Times; Josh Haner/The New York Times; Jim Wilson/The New York Times; Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Not too hot, not too cold. By far his most sensible policy decision.

Then again, I loathe nearly everything that Rick Santorum stands for. There’s far too much for one post, so I shall focus on two prominent issues. Firstly the man is a bigot. He is a homophobic bigot. You cannot justify homophobia, not in the 21st Century, not in a civilised society. Dressing it up as a feigned defence of the “traditional family” cuts no ice; its like saying you don’t want any black kids in your white children’s class because you’re afraid they’ll learn bad habits. You assume there’s a threat and use that to justify your pre-existing bigotry. This should not just be an LGBT concern – if you’re capable of hating one group solely because of something intrinsic to their being, you can just as easily hate another. As a socialist and a social liberal I find it abhorrent.

Before I was a socialist I was already a scientist. Santorum’s second negative trait is his preference for non-evidence based policy. Here is a man who prefers to substitute his own reality. It is not enough to say that he is anti-science; he is anti-fact. From a genuine objectivist point of view, he is anti-reality. Call it creationism or call it intelligent design, it’s still bullshit. Then there’s the Dutch euthanasia epidemic which doesn’t really exist, except in Rick’s head. An oblate spheroidal 4.54 billion year-old Earth? Just a “liberal” media conspiracy. Probably.

Ultimately I suppose I should be glad he’s gone. Unfortunately there was his speech after Wisconsin last week, where analogies were made to the Republican nomination races in ’76 and ’80. Pick the moderate (Ford, ’76) and lose, pick the conservative (Reagan, ’80) and win was the message. Santorum sees this as his ’76, and he’s now positioning himself as nominee heir-designate for 2016. Be afraid. 2016 would be a much better year for him than 2012 could have been. Romney, near certain nominee, faces an incumbent President with decent approval ratings and an improving economy. The precedents aren’t good. But assuming Obama’s re-election, by 2016 the party political pendulum will be swinging the other way. Apart from 1988 the last time a party retained control of the White House into a third term with a non-incumbent candidate was 1928. Santorum will grow more electable not less, especially if a second “moderate” Republican loses to Obama.

On the other hand, as recently six months ago people were still speculating about Palin 2012. Hopefully Santorum will disappear into obscurity. Either way, the 2012 race just became much less interesting, with the next election results worth staying up for being the Big One itself in November.

Don’t assume from any of this that I like Romney. To me he represents an equally insidious hatred, though in a much more subtle flavour. His evil is a delicately refined one, and the more dangerous for it. I’ll deal with him later.

What’s happening across the Ocean?

Great news y’all (may as well get in the spirit of this post) America has seen its fifth consecutive month of falling unemployment; down by 8.5% to 8.3% with 243,000 jobs being created. Coupled with growth figures from last week showing a rise of 2.8% in GDP in the final quarter of 2011 (1% higher growth on the previous quarter) it’s becoming increasingly apparent that America’s strategy of economic stimulus is comparatively buoyant when next to Europe’s strategy of austerity. Yes, unemployment levels are higher than here in the UK (for now at least), but that’s primarily because of the USA’s private sector economy focus (when compared to our economy at least) and some of the weakest employment protection laws in the world.

What is beginning to emerge is that Europe’s (and more specifically, the UK’s) austerity programmes are not working. If you make too harsh a cuts to the public sector you’ll also damage the private sector as numerous contracts are arranged between the two sectors. That’s right, they’re intertwined, you attack one part too harshly it will have a knock on effect on the other.

It is hugely unlikely Cameron, Clegg and Osborne will take notice of Obama’s successes. But at least the American people hopefully will this November.

Max

Another despairing moment for the American right

Michele Bachmann speaks during the GOP debate

You’d think after eight years of George W. Bush as President you would have thought the Republican party would ensure its front-runners for the 2012 Presidential bid would at the very least appear to seem to know what they are talking about. But sadly, they got Michelle Bachmann instead. Now I thought the American right (specifically the Tea Party wing) had lost most of its credibility (primarily) in regards to modern science when one of its darlings, Sarah Palin, said this:

Now, yes you may well be reeling laughter/pity for the Palin. But this has turned out to be nothing when compared to the Tea Party’s newer rising darling, Michelle Bachmann. This is the woman who wishes to close down the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regards homosexuality as a “disorder” and a “sexual difunction” and wishes to repeal all health care system legislation.

What she done now? You may ask. Well she, like Palin has delved into the realm of scientific ignorance. Bachmann claimed that the HPV vaccine, which is a well-proven preventer of cervical cancer, causes “mental retardation” in children. Yup, you heard right, “mental retardation” in children.

Now I’m not even going to go in to the long long list of scientists and scientific institutions that lined up to show how ridiculous Bachmann’s comments are. But I will provide her with two specific facts:

  • HPV, Human Papilloma Virus, or more commonly: genital warts is the most common STD worldwide and is the 2nd largest cause of female cancer (CDC).
  • Investigations by the AMA, CDC, WHO, and other major health organizations have cleared the vaccine as safe. Of 23 million administered dosages, 772 (that’s .003%) reported serious effects.
Please Tea Party, grow up!
Max