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Apr 072018
 

Now don’t get me wrong – I think all forms of execution are inhumane, but I have just seen a US progressive video which made it plain that hanging is supposedly more inhumane than current US forms of execution. I would mention them by name, but I’ve heard this from other places too.

A properly carried out (variable drop) hanging should be relatively humane – it should be fast (less than 15s from being removed from the cell to the end), and causes immediate paralysis and unconsciousness before death.

An interesting story from Pierrepoint (Britain’s last executioner) about the execution of Nazi war-criminals was that the US executions were carried out by volunteers rather than qualified executioners, and the volunteers refused to listen to Pierrepoint’s advice. Many of the US hangings were botched causing either decapitation (which probably isn’t especially inhumane, but would be rather messy) or slow strangulation over 20 minutes.

Perhaps it is this that has led to the belief that hanging is more inhumane than other US forms of execution.

Misty Trees

Mar 152018
 

One of the strangest things about the US is that one of the government’s most popular programmes is Medicare, which is in effect a socialist programme. As recently as 2015, 77% of US citizens approved of Medicare making it the second most popular US government programme (the most popular was Social Security which is even more socialist).

Yet tell most people from the US that socialism is alive and well in the US, and practised by US government, and you’re likely to be answered with astonishment. Of course the US isn’t tainted by that evil socialism!

Perhaps it would be better to call it “community-funded programmes for all”, although the “for all” would have to wait until Medicare is extended.

Audio Windmills

Dec 242017
 

The behaviour of the US during the last week has been exceptionally dysfunctional and indeed puts it alongside rogue states. For those tuning in late, the US has recently announced that it is moving its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now there are all sorts of reasons why this is a dumb move and incredibly provocative in a part of the world that does not need any more provocation.

But here we are looking at the US and the UN rather than the move itself (however dumb it was).

The UN decided to call for a resolution that in effect says “We think this is a dumb move.” and the US reaction has been more or less along the lines of what you would expect a spoiled brat and a bully to react like.

Before the vote, the US spokesperson was grumbling about how its friends shouldn’t countenance such a resolution, that those who receive US aid should be careful, and how dare the UN put forward such a resolution when the US pays for the UN (hint: it doesn’t).

And afterwards, the US announces a party for its friends, and that nobody who voted in favour of the resolution was invited. So there!

Just like a spoiled child.

First of all, organisations like the UN need to be funded or they don’t exist. And the way that the UN is funded is based on every member’s ability to pay except that there is a ceiling on each individual’s level because the US threw a tantrum a while back. The US pays approximately 22% of the UN’s budget, so about $2 billion which is considerably less than the cumulative total of the countries that make up the EU (a roughly comparably sized block) which pays approximately 27% of the budget ($2.5 billion).

And a big chunk of that UN budget is spent within the US because the UN headquarters are in New York.

Frankly some of us are a little tired of hearing the US whinging about how much it pays.

Secondly the UN is there to do lots of things, but one of the most important is to allow countries collectively and formally tell another country that it is doing something dumb – and if a resolution passes with 129 countries voting for it, you can be pretty sure you’ve done something dumb. Sure that you are right despite that many votes against you? That’s a sign of overweening arrogance.

Threatening (“We’ll remember who are friends are”) people to vote in your favour is dangerous in the extreme. People remember bullies and the stench of it remains for a very long time.

Jul 292017
 

There has been a lot of talk about how the USA pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord is stupid in various forms. Stupid enough that many US cities and states are trying to meet their climate accord obligations independently.

But one thing doesn’t appear to have been mentioned: That the USA made a firm commitment to follow the Paris accords, and then broke that agreement. Which makes the US government oath-breakers – an untrustworthy party when it comes to international agreements.

You can make all sorts of excuses for repudiating the Paris Accord – perhaps it wasn’t in the best interests of the US to take part, or that it was unfair to the US in some way.

But fundamentally, the USA made an agreement and then repudiated it. It is now less trustworthy than it was before.

Feb 042017
 

I could choose to criticise Trump’s stand in immigration from certain countries based on the rights and wrongs of it, because it’s certainly wrong. But firstly there has been plenty written and said about that aspect of it, and secondly those who don’t see how wrong it is are not likely to change.

But even those who do not see how wrong it is may well be able to see just how stupid this move is.

Just to remind ourselves, Trump has temporarily blocked all travel into the USA by anyone holding a passport issued by seven countries which were previously subject to heightened visa requirements. And for good reasons – the relevant countries have more than their fair share of terrorist activity – and it is more than reasonable to check on immigrants to verify that they are not known terrorists.

The first “own goal” is that the new restrictions blocks many people from travelling to the USA who have made their homes there including famous people like Mo Farah (although the ban may not apply to him). How much safer is the US by blocking Mo from entering the USA and going home?  Or all the others in his position?

And let’s be frank – there’s something less than honourable about issuing a visa allowing someone to travel, and then preventing them from travelling. There are people who have planned the holiday of a lifetime and arranged to visit Disneyworld or Disneyland, and all of a sudden they are prevented from travelling.

Now you could argue that if this action decreases the risk to US citizens it is worth taking. But even if it does significantly reduce the risk, I would argue that it is better to accept the increased risk to do the right thing. And in general if you do not accept a slightly increased risk to do the right thing, you are a morally bankrupt person.

But does this decrease the risk to US citizens? To assess that we need to assess how great is the risk of terrorist attacks to the USA, and specifically terrorist attacks from those seven countries.

In fact the risk attributed to terrorism is vastly overrated. Going through the Wikipedia list of terrorist incidents, I get a total of 5 incidents causing the deaths of 50 people (the perpetrators excluded), which includes the Pulse nightclub shooting. If you go back to 2015, the figures are 4 incidents and 23 deaths, and one of the incidents was a christian terrorist.

Working through a similar list of mass shootings in 2016, I get a total of 14 incidents causing the deaths of 56 individuals.

Which is basically saying that you’re about as likely to walk into a terrorist incident as into a mass shooting, and both are really, really unlikely. That doesn’t help much if you are caught up in such an incident, so taking reasonable and proportionate action to decrease that risk is worthwhile.

And targeting refugees fits into the disproportional category; of those 5 incidents in 2016, only one was perpetrated by a refugee (and nobody died).

And now onto the final bit of stupidity: Firing your legal adviser for telling you an executive order is illegal when it is being found so over and over again makes you look more than a bit foolish.  Particularly when you could accomplish almost as much (although in reality more) by simply stopping new visas being issued; especially when the decreased risk from terrorism is marginal at best.

Nov 112016
 

So Trump has been elected as the next president of the USA.

Now setting aside my disbelief for a moment (really? He actually won?), let’s look at some of the reasons why he may have won, and why the poll takers got it wrong.

First of all, the polls were not that far out – whilst they got the winner wrong, they did predict that it would be close. And it was close – Clinton got 47.7% of the popular vote whereas Trump got 47.3%. Yes, Clinton actually won the popular vote, but the US electoral system does not work quite so well when the result is so close. But not bad for a 200-year old system, but perhaps it is time for a long and careful review of the process in the light of modern communications.

In addition, there is also the embarrassment factor – if you had decided to vote for Trump, would you really admit it publicly? On a more serious note, when elections are particularly acrimonious, there is a good chance that a significant amount of the electorate will lie (or just keep quiet) about their choice when asked by pollsters.

Enough about pollsters though, how did he win? Of course everyone wants one simple answer to that question, and there isn’t one. There are many factors as to why he won, and each contributes a little.

The first thing to remember is that there are many stupid people in any population. Nothing wrong with being stupid; some of my best friends are stupid (that didn’t come out quite right!). Really! And it is a fact of life that there are many stupid people – it’s how intelligence tests work. You measure everyone’s intelligence, and those who are below average are stupid, and those who are above average are bright.

Besides, Trump won didn’t he? QED.

And stupid people are easily conned by anyone who tells them what they want to hear no matter how fantastical it might be. And Trump has been telling them what they want to hear – abortion is wrong, he can restore manufacturing jobs (presumably by overturning the laws of economics), making America great again (that one always goes down well, even if America is already great), that climate change is not man-made, etc.

Every time that he pushed one of those buttons, and pandered to every wing-nut grouping out there, he gained more supporters. He either didn’t care or didn’t know that he came across as a cretinous fool, as long as he got some votes.

The second big factor was that although Trump was nominated by the Republican party, he was the closest thing to an anti-establishment candidate of the two major parties (I’ll come to the other parties shortly). Of course he isn’t really not part of the establishment being a billionaire property developer, but he hasn’t previously held public office. And anti-establishment is very popular right now. Given that Clinton was very definitely old political establishment, this could very well be the most significant reason.

And of course there is the economy. Like the rest of the world, the US has just been through a huge recession where many lost their jobs or even their homes. And any ruling party suffers in the wake of a recession. Whether or not the Democrats were to blame, they were going to get blamed by the voters – or at least enough of them to make a bit of a difference.

Next there is of course the poor old sane Republican who has always voted for their party. This time around, they had a buffoon to vote for and although some couldn’t face voting for Trump, a good number couldn’t see any other options.

The reason that some people are blaming are the “other” candidates. Despite the media coverage implying that there are only two candidates, there were in fact nearly 30. If all those who voted for one of the others, had voted for Clinton instead, it might have made a difference, but it seems a touch unlikely that they would have all voted for her. Best guess? They would have divided more or less evenly just like everyone else did.

Having said that, it would be nice if the US had a transferable vote system whereby you could vote for (say) the Green Party, but have your vote go towards another if the Green party didn’t win.

I’m not going to bother mentioning those who couldn’t be bothered to vote. They didn’t vote so they don’t count.

So how about the reaction to Trump’s victory?

It’s almost as bizarre as the lead up to the election: When you’re in a room the morning the results came out, and the two embarrassed Americans both apologise for the US having voted in Trump, you know there’s something odd going on. The reaction has been extreme – not just the usual moaning about having an idiot in charge for four years, but protests, riots, and even a group in California that wants to declare independence. It is sort of understandable (after all, it’s Trump!), but the division in the US today may be almost as damaging as the idiocies that Trump will enact.

On the subject of which, Trump himself probably can’t remember all the rubbish he has promised all over the campaign trail. Of course there are those who will remind him of things he has promised, and probably a lot more besides. But how much damage will he actually do?

The worst case scenario (and there’s more than one) is that he brings about some sort of theocratic form of government (he certainly has supporters who would like to see this), and launches nuclear weapons (Trump with his hand on the launch button? Shudder!).

This is not that likely – there are too many obstacles in the way, including the constitution. And there is just the slightest hint that Trump might not be quite that bad.

His first reaction to the protests was typical paranoia – blaming them on paid activists. But his second reaction was quite sympathetic saying he was pleased that the protesters loved their country so much. Trump probably likes being popular, and there’s one obvious thing to do with a president like that – when he proposes some idiocy, protest. Don’t protest about Trump (however tempting it is); protest about his bad policies.

Of course I might be overly optimistic.

stack-of-coins-p1

Sep 122016
 

The title of this post came from a tongue-in-cheek post on a forum I sometimes post on, and this post is not about the NHS nor it is even about socialism.

What it is really about is the over the top reaction you get when anything even tangentially related to socialism crops up anywhere someone from the US can see it. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this is a variant on Godwin’s law whereby if someone accuses something of being socialist, they instantly win and condemn the “thing”.

To which I want to respond: grow up and think for yourself.

First of all, socialism is not the same as communism and in turn, communism is not the same as the kind of communism as practised by the Soviets. It is possible that communism inevitably leads to the kind of totalitarianism that the Soviets were so keen on, although there are those who disagree. But this is not about what sort of government you have.

It’s about how to run certain things. How do we pay for, and run certain services we have decided are essential such as :-

  • Health care (of individuals)
  • Public health (of society as a whole – vaccinations, sewage, water supply, etc.)
  • Police and justice system.
  • Defence

There are plenty of things that we have historically decided that should be paid for by the community as a whole, and be run by our government (in a very loose sense the community itself), including many of the items listed above. Even the most rabid anti-socialist is unlikely to start bleating about how the government is interfering with the private sector when talking about defence.

Yet suggest something new should be paid for by the community as a whole – such as the health care system – and Americans will start shouting “Socialism” and condemn the notion without looking at the merits.

By all means condemn a new community-funded notion if there are obvious problems with it, but to condemn it because it might be something suggested by a socialist government is ideologically-driven stupidity of the first order.

stack-of-coins-p1

May 142016
 

Pfizer now no longer supplies drugs to be used in the US lethal injection executions. Which means that there is now no major pharmaceutical company prepared to supply drugs to be used for executions. Or in other words even large capitalist-driven organisations that the major pharmaceuticals are find executions so morally repugnant that they want nothing to do with them.

So those US states have a number of options :-

  1. Try to find the drugs from “unauthorised” sources, which basically translates as obtaining drugs under false pretences.
  2. Try to find an alternative method of execution.
  3. Or finally do the right thing and stop executing people.

It’s time the US grew up and joined the civilised world.

B84V1827t1-elderley-man-past-gravestones

Dec 102015
 

So Donald Trump wants to ban muslims from entering the US does he?

Perhaps he really is not only a vicious racist but also as gormless as he looks in the photo (apologies for those of a sensitive disposition). There are others who have covered why banning muslims from entering the US is morally wrong, and if you do not understand why that is so, then explaining here is not going to make things any clearer.

But in addition to being morally wrong, it is also dumb in the extreme. There are two important question to ask when looking at a policy …

Is It A Practicable Policy?

No.

Islam is a religion and is not apparent from someone’s appearance. There is no label on their forehead!

So a policy of restricting muslims would be limited to either asking them. Which would lead to a situation where you were excluding muslims who do not lie about their religion, or in other words you are letting in the kind of muslims that you should perhaps be excluding, and excluding the muslims there is no reason for excluding.

Or you could do some sort of racial profiling, which amounts to not excluding muslims, but excluding light-brown skinned people. Again this will exclude the kind of muslims you do not want to exclude, whilst allowing through ones up to no good.

Will It Accomplish The Mission?

It really depends on what is intended by excluding muslims. If it is intended to portray the US as an intolerant country blundering around with incompetent measures that do more to annoy than to protect, them yes it can be said to accomplish the mission.

If however it is intended to make the US safer from terrorists, then no. Terrorists are more interested in accomplishing their own mission than telling the truth, and will go out of their way to avoid being identified is muslims if they think that this will help in their mission.

There is one small category of terrorists that this may protect against – those who are initially ordinary muslims but who later become radicalised whilst in the US. However having said that, the likelihood that this measure will protect against those vulnerable to becoming radicalised is pretty low.

 

 

Oct 022015
 

In the wake of yet another senseless slaughter in the US perpetrated by a supposedly anti-Christian mindless thug, it is time yet again for the US to contemplate a sensible level of gun control.

The US does not have a problem with gun control; it has a problem with mindless violence. There are other countries in the world where gun ownership is at the same level or even higher than in the US – such as Switzerland.

But gun control is a sensible measure to take whilst the real problem – a tough problem to tackle – is dealt with. The fact that the US constitution protects gun ownership is a red herring; as the name implies (the Second Amendment), the US constitution is amenable to amendment.

And even that is a bit of a red herring – the second amendment does not protect gun ownership for the purposes of self-defence, playing with guns at a gun range, or murdering innocent animals,  It protects gun ownership for the purposes of making up a well-regulated militia :-

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Gun control regulations that do not prevent gun ownership by members of a well regulated militia are not in breach of the second amendment.

If for example the US brought in laws which required gun owners to be members of a well regulated militia (which as a minimum should ensure that militia commanders are subject to stringent checks), store their weapons in a militia armoury, and only be allowed to use those weapons under the supervision of militia officers, it would go a long way to preventing senseless slaughters.

The main aim with that is to ensure that gun usage is subject to collective decision making – crowd-sourcing the decision to use the weapons if you like.

If gun usage is controlled by collective decision making, there is less chance of a murderous maniac slaughtering innocent victims.

You may think that as a UK citizen, this is none of my business, but I dispute that. The victims of this latest senseless slaughter were my fellow humans, and as a human I have the right to stick my oar in.

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