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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Geoff & Guns

Geoff has strong and cogent opinions about America, the NRA and gun laws. Below is his email to me in blue. I comment intermittently in red.

The NRA and their stupid stance, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" just highlights the fact that the USA is a lost cause. Nothing at all will change. Americans care more than you do about senseless violence and crime. They spend a lot of money on studying it. The aggregate conclusion seems to be that when there is likely to be an armed citizen with a concealed gun on the premises (a situation prohibited in many states) madmen wanting to die and take as many as possible will avoid such locations. If my grandchildren had been threatened (at Dunblaine, for example) would I have been more or less alarmed if I knew that the caretaker had a Glock 9mm.

In America, even a cretin, and I use that term in its truest and psychiatric sense, can buy a gun, and, if they are so minded, shoot someone.
Are you telling us that this is the law?

My dear and very wise old Dad always said that if you want to examine the case for or against anything you should look at the extremes. So, let's suppose that pocket size nuclear bombs were available in Walmart for $25 each. Would it be reasonable for our cretin to be allowed to buy one? Would it be reasonable for even a non-cretin to be able to buy one? Would the NRA, or maybe the NNBA (as it would have become), really say, “"nuclear bombs don’t kill people, people kill people". Somehow I doubt it.

Sadly, because of the massive political lobby that the NRA carries and the fact that it is simply a PR stunt of behalf of US weapons manufacturers, which the deluded population swallow, nothing will change and 80 people a day will be killed by gun violence.

It is worth remembering that over one million people have died from gun violence since Martin Luther King was assassinated. I can’t quite see how NRA members sleep peacefully at night but maybe the pistol under their pillow and the AK47 hanging in the kitchen help.

On another aspect of American life, Obama (and I am more of an Obama fan than you) stated yesterday (again!), “This is the greatest nation on earth”. Really! I was heating up a nice pan of spinach soup when I heard this and nearly puked.

For me, after visiting the US over 40 times, it doesn’t even make my top 50. Let’s have a look:

1. They think they are the greatest nation on earth and are therefore clearly, by definition, all deluded. 
This is a syllogism with a premise left out. George thinks he is the fattest person in his household and is clearly, by definition, deluded. “Fat” and “great” are undefined. Weighing scales and body mass index are not appealed to. GDP, social mobility and Nobel Prizes are ignored. Anorexics die because they think they are fat – couldn’t resist that.

2 Their total arrogance does not let them imagine why foreigners might not want to live there.
People do want to live there: Vietnamese, Cubans and Mexicans, for a start. As Obamisation takes root and flourishes, they may well become less keen.

3. They still execute people (can you believe that?!)
This doesn’t even pretend to be an argument.

4. Unlike other, more civilized countries, they don’t see a responsibility for helping the truly needy and sick and I greatly emphasis the word “truly”.
American philanthropy, particularly from conservatives, puts the rest of us to shame. The so-called “robber barons” created schools, hospitals and myriad charities dedicated to the needy and sick, in their homeland and abroad. They gave billions and billions. If Democrats gave blood to the extent that Republicans do there would be 40% more blood.

5. Their only foreign policy is to bomb countries they take exception to.
I can’t support every US foreign policy. But I must point out one (which I deplore): underwriting the defence of Western Europe, partly by stationing 10s of thousands of troops in Germany (for example) can’t be described as bombing anyone.

6. They seem to accept that having a gun and shooting people is the norm.
If I were a member of the NRA, I might accept that having a gun should be (and is, under the Constitution) my right, and perhaps even my duty. I’m sure that I would accept that I should only ever shoot someone who is threatening an innocent victim.

7. Apart from the obvious exceptions such as the Metropolitan Opera and the Guggenheim, they have very little in the way of serious culture given the size of the country and population.
Oh dear! The number of cultural institutions and the private money spent on them put the rest of the world to shame. Are you going to claim that the Turner Prize makes us superior? What about their novelists, their theatre. On a slightly different note, the US has hundreds of privately financed economic and political think-tanks, churning out innovative ideas on an unprecedented scale. Fortunately, these institutions are being copied by people in many other countries. And, for example, the Mises Institute invites these creative foreigners, (eg Hans Herman Hoppe and Jesus Huerta de Souto) to feed back into American political thinking.

8. Their TV is truly atrocious (OK we’re getting down the list now). Have you ever watched, “The International World News” on any of the awful channels? A typical headline might be about a strike by Central Park gardeners or the Boston Mass Transit having leaves on the track.
OK. US TV may be ghastly. Ours is too. Ours depends hugely on theirs. Most of the decent films come from Hollywood, as well as lots of crap. We have virtually no variety in current affairs. BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are homogenised political correctness. They have Fox News. They have talk radio (some head-bangers there, perhaps); we have nothing comparable. I have been prompted to blog, when on a rare occasion a current affairs programme in the UK actually illuminated the subject “under discussion”.

BTW, since you didn’t ask, my favourite country (and sadly I’ve only been to 54 of them), is Italy.
Even though you didn’t ask, The United States of America is, unquestionably (and despite its faults), my favourite. Its wholesome political instincts are severely threatened; its institutions and civic culture are oppressed by “democracy” itself (the ultimate irony). Italians make the best coffee in the world. The guy who guides you to your coach at Venice airport is dressed more elegantly than your average UK cabinet minister. An example to the nations?


  1. I've replied to the above in two comment sections as I exceed the word count. The number refer to your red comments by number:

    1. Delusion: I appreciate this is not an argument and was somewhat tongue in cheek but they are deluded – I’ve been there many times. They really do think they are the greatest nation on earth. No other country is so deluded and arrogant to think this about their country, apart from perhaps North Korea!

    2. Foreigners: OK, Vietnam for obvious reasons, Mexico and Cuba (well why not – it’s a stone’s throw away and clearly offers a better life) But are Westerners flocking there? No.

    In 2010, there were 1,042,625 immigrants to the USA – the vast majority from the third world and this is understandable. Only 88,730 Europeans emigrated there. If you ratio this up on a population of 315 million then total immigration represents 0.33%. In the same year 591,000 immigrants came to the UK. The UK population in 2010 was 62.3 million making our equivalent figure 0.95%. The non-EU figure was 322,000. If therefore we take out the EU immigrants the figure is still 0.52%.

    Thus I could make an argument for saying that the UK was a far more attractive place to emigrate to than the USA.

    3. Executing people: In my humble opinion the fact that the US still execute people puts them on a par with a lot of nasty regimes around the world and I certainly don’t agree with capital punishment – I’m for whole life sentences smashing up rocks. Here’s the top ten executors:

    P R China
    North Korea
    (I didn’t include the USA as they are 5th).

    How interesting that most of this group are countries that the USA has big issues with! US folk must be delighted to be in such august company. Do you spot any Western civilized countries in this list?

    4. Looking after the needy: I don’t care about philanthropy – you can’t rely on it. In the UK if you or I have a heart attack a paramedic will be with us in under 5 minutes and we will be taken to a specialist heart hospital and given urgent attention. Would I really want to rely on the goodwill and philanthropy of say Sir Richard Branson or Sir Donald Gosling for this? No way.

    I find it astonishing that in the US, a so-called, civilized western country, that this is not the case. Their loss.

    5. US foreign policy: Interesting that you quote US troops in Europe and I agree they haven’t bombed us yet. But why did they go into Afghanistan and create havoc with no motive apart from simple misplaced revenge Did they really think Al Qaeda would suddenly say, “OK guv, we give in”?

    And what were they doing in Iraq? WMD – really?

    Vietnam really focuses the mind on the havoc that the US has wreaked upon the world and for what? They actually thought communism would spread to their country. How silly was that?

    When you see what’s left of the My Son temples constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries you weep. Fifty years ago these were the equal of the fabulous Angkor Watt temples in Cambodia. Because a few Viet Kong were skulking about in them, not only were the temples carpet bombed but the whole area was doused in Agent Orange. Only one species of tree still grows there. Truly unforgivable.

    6. Guns: Why would you be a member of the NRA? What motive would drive you to do that? Would you really shoot a burglar? I have been in the PR business for 25 years and believe me it’s just a PR stunt albeit a very good one. Sadly lots of gullible people have fallen for it.

    It is sadly true that cretins are able to buy guns. The gun regs vary greatly from state to state and In many states background checks are required but it is possible to legally buy a weapon in some states without background checks – for example from a gun fair.

  2. 7. Culture: Not sure why you are introducing political thinking to this argument. I’m on about culture – e.g. art, literature, music. Difficult to quantify this without a lot of research. Do you think for example that there is more culture in say NY (in the form of art, music, opera and dance) than there is in London? I bet I could go to a chamber music concert every day in London – could I in NY?

    8. TV (news). With all its failings I fervently believe we have probably the best PBS in the world and I’ve seen a lot of others. On the subject of current affairs it is a fact that US politicians are totally unused to being grilled by the likes of Humphrys, Paxman and Marr and I’m amazed at your assertion that they’re hampered by political correctness. Did you listen a few weeks ago to Humphrys grilling George Entwhistle? Poor George had to resign on the strength of it.

    So here’s a challenge: tell me one US interviewer that ranks alongside these guys and provide a YouTube clip of them in action and maybe I’ll change my mind.

    9. Italy: I love your summation of Italy in that they dress nicely and make good coffee? Is there nothing else maybe? What about their art and music which goes without saying is vastly superior to anything found in the US and elsewhere – they are just doused in the arts. What about the wonderful hill-top towns, great cities (Rome, Venice, Florence), good food and drink, terrific landscapes, great motorways, ice-cream, history everywhere, engineering skills, great roads, importance of the family, the wonderful language, the Vatican! It’s unequaled.