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.

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