Sunday, 3 November 2013

Boobs Really Really Really Are Not News

Recently, the Warwick Debating Union hosted the No More Page 3 Campaign, Helen Goodman MP, Natasha Devon, founder of Body Gossip, and Raheem Kassam, editor/founder of Trending Central, to debate the motion "This House Would Ban Page 3" (for clarity, the former two spoke in proposition, whilst the latter two spoke in opposition). I was quite disappointed that I had to leave the debate midway through, having only listened to Helen and Raheem speak, especially when, in a short twitter conversation with Natasha, it was revealed that I missed a "fiery" one. Going off the two speeches I was lucky enough to see, there is no doubt the opposition should have won the debate, in my opinion.

I was rather bemused by Helen's speech, which began with her reading out a newspaper article and included the customary mention of her constituency. Other than confirming that she was not in favour of a government ban, there was not much of note. The point about a government ban is an interesting one. For what it is worth, I can understand that the campaign, and Helen, are not in favour of actually banning Page 3 via legislation, but rather are in favour 'of asking the editor nicely' but, to be frank, that campaign must be considered a failure. Of course the petition has been largely successful in terms of signatories but ultimately, if the Sun was going to 'voluntarily' drop Page 3, David Dinsmore would have done so by now. Instead, he has come out in support of the feature and this, obviously, points towards its continued presence in the magazine. Continued pressure and campaigning might be successful in ensuring the removal of the Sun from universities or individual shops, but ultimately, this will not have much effect on the Sun's decisions regarding Page 3. The Sun will continue to sell millions of copies regardless of whether my local corner shop or the Costcutter on campus stocks it - and I cannot see this changing. Making the safe assumption that there is not great pressure from the Sun's readers for Page 3 to go, there are two reasons for Dinsmore to remove the feature:

  1. Removing it will see an increase in sales. 
  2. The Government either makes Page 3 illegal or imposes the same conditions of sale on the Sun as are imposed on Nuts or Zoo
One would only be the case if the readers themselves started campaigning for its removal or if outlets like Tesco starting dropping the Sun in protest and I cannot see either happening, whilst both the No More Page 3 Campaign and Helen Goodman confirmed that they did not support option two, so it seems that Page 3 is here to stay, regardless of any disapproval of it. It is interesting that No More Page 3, and others, have written numerous articles about hugely negative effects deriving from Page 3, yet do not want to ban it, especially considering what I believe to be the current state of their campaign. 

As I have already made clear, I thought Raheem won the first half of the debate, the text of his speech has been uploaded to his website Trending Central and can be found here. Raheem, and I believe Natasha's, case goes beyond arguing for or against a ban, summed up neatly by the following statement: "Well, we're telling women, "No. You can't voluntarily pose for a newspaper. No. You must cover up."" Irrespective of whether No More Page 3 and Helen Goodman are calling for a governmental ban, there is a distinct dictating to Page 3 girls what they should and should not do by campaigning against Page 3, which seems to go very much against Liberal (and Feminist) values. I wish I had heard Natasha Devon's speech - from her tweets, I think it would have been along the lines of Page 3 actually promoting healthy body image with the variety of dress sizes, no breast implants etc, something that I think complements Raheem's point. 

For what it is worth, I do not really like Page 3 but my disapproval of Page 3 and its presence of the Sun is irrelevant really. Yes I understand the fear that boys/men seeing Page 3 girls and thinking that is what girls all look like or the fear that it can lead to the objectification or sexualisation of women but removing Page 3 is addressing that potential problem in the wrong way. Firstly, as Natasha tweeted after the debate (and no doubt said in her speech), to assume that Page 3 makes men think women are objects and so on is not only false (without blowing my own trumpet, I happen to have seen Page 3 and also happen to not think women are objects, and I am sure I am not alone) but is also simply offensive to all the "decent" men out there. Secondly, and more importantly, if we grant the assumption that Page 3 girls can lead to the sexualisation of women by men, the problem is not Page 3, the problem is those men.

In fact, much more dangerous than Page 3, in my opinion, are things like Smart Insurance's advert. For anyone who has not seen the advert, and cannot be bothered to click on the link, it depicts a man as coming home from work and arranging life insurance to help his family in the event that the worst should happen. The implicit message from this advert is that it is the man who is the bread winner, it is the man who needs to ensure his family is protected should the worst happen and that his wife could not possibly survive without his earnings. The advert itself is not explicit at all, but there can be little doubt that it could be seen to be reinforcing the gender stereotype and male breadwinner view that is prevalent in our society. I think there are many more people who are prone to influence by adverts like Smart Insurance's, whose implicit message is much more subtle than the bare breasts on Page 3. I am sympathetic to the fears of the No More Page 3 campaign, and others who disapprove of Page 3, but the issues they raise - the sexualisation and objectification of women, for example, should be combatted by education and other means, in my opinion.

Ultimately, the issues highlighted by the campaign are far deeper rooted than being caused by a woman having her boobs out in a newspaper. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Arab Spring or Islamist Winter

On Monday 7th October, the Warwick Debating Union hosted a public debate on the motion THB that the Arab Spring has caused more harm than good. Whilst I was not organising this specific debate, I was particularly excited by its motion as it was the one that most chimed with my interests. Clearly the student body agreed, with the room packed to capacity and the live stream being watched by many, when it decided to work. Just for reference, Barak Seneer and Maria Holt proposed the motion, with Noel Brehony and Meg Munn MP in opposition and the motion did not carry, in fact it failed by quite a large majority.

The obvious points, as you would expect, came up - violence against women, the question of Political Islam and Democracy, Syria, whether the West is arrogant to assume imposition of its view of morality and system of government as right/good amongst others.

The panel, in the main, actually seemed to agree with each other on some of the major points - the failures of the governments that came in to replace the dictators; that there was a long way to go; and that women's rights were a serious issue, yet were consistent to their opposing sides of the debate. Ultimately, the debate seemed to come down to optimism beating pessimism. Seneer spoke about the lack of any indication that Liberal and Democratic forces "winning" in the region, whilst Brehony spoke of the (relative) successes in Yemen. Similarly, both Holt and Munn spoke of the awful assaults, sexual harassment and violence that women in the region were victim of and their lack of political and social rights. However, Holt stressed these facts, whilst Munn also made the point that the Arab Spring had large woman involvement in protests and calling for social and Political change and also noted the example of Tunisia whose parliament's make up is 27% woman - 5% higher than our own, according to her stats.

Perhaps we do have reason to be optimistic. No one denied the awful situation in Syria, no one denied that Political vacuums had been filled, often, with Muslim Brotherhood Islamists and extremists and no one tried to make it seem like women suddenly lived in some utopia. There was an acceptance of the cold hard facts on the ground, which ultimately made for much more credible opposition side than I initially anticipated. I, however, disagree with the majority of the students watching. I share Barack Seneer's pessimism, perhaps summed up when he answered a question by stating, "I hope you're right and I am wrong, I really do," and went on to further analyse his point about looking at the Arab Spring from a 2013 perspective and not seeing the signs that it could be a success, referencing the 'lack of seeds being planted' in the first place in reply to the generic point that you need to plant seeds for anything to grow and that takes time. Maybe in 100 years time, Barak and I will both be proven wrong. Let's hope so.

As George Will once said: "The nice thing about being a pessimist is that you are constantly either being proven right or pleasantly surprised."


Friday, 30 August 2013

It is all Blair's Fault

I recently saw this tweet from Piers Morgan on my Twitter timeline:

"Cameron got punished for what Blair did. Simple as that #Iraq" (https://twitter.com/piersmorgan/status/373208889866457088)

Ok, you got me. I follow Piers Morgan on Twitter. I am not his biggest fan and I do think he is the most awful interviewer, incredibly arrogant and full of himself but, with all that in mind, his views are, at the very least, thought-provoking. Sometimes I even find myself agreeing with him - gun control, for example. Here I am not so sure. I agree that, to an extent, there is a sense that the British public and British MPs are (rightly) more wary about intervention in Syria after Iraq (and Afghanistan) than they would be if British troops had remained on home soil. The implication, however, is quite clear - that without Iraq, British MPs would have voted for the motion that was brought before the house yesterday. That is an altogether different point, and one I am not so sure about. (See, thought-provoking.) 

My stance on Syria is simple. There is nothing we can do. We are condemned to listen to George Galloway rant about how Israel supplied the chemical weapons to the rebels via Al Qaeda; to listen to our MPs try and score political points out of such a tragedy; and, ultimately, we are condemned to sit idly by as Assad, with the help of the Russians and Chinese, brutally murders his civilians until there are no more Syrians left for him to kill and he deems the job done. On the one hand, I understand the arguments against intervention and there are, of course, some MPs with a genuine opposition to intervention (then there is George Galloway). On the other, do we not have some moral responsibility to act, if we can? Perhaps the crucial point is exactly that: that, with the best will in the world, we cannot improve the situation and, as I say, we are condemned to watch on in horror. Diplomacy has failed and will continue to fail, whilst intervention seems only to mean that Syria's children are killed by our bullets as well as Assad's.

With that sobering thought firmly in your minds, let's return to the question at hand: Do we think British MPs would have voted for yesterday's motion had we not intervened in Iraq? I think Piers has a point, especially considering how close the final vote was, but it's not as clear cut as he is suggesting (or perhaps is forced to suggest with only 140 characters to play with).

I leave it as an open question - feel free to comment a response.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Peace In Our Time

The big news coming out of the Middle East, if one ignores Syria as so many seem so capable of doing, is the announcement of a return to peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I'm an Economist, so let's make a few assumptions. Let's assume that peace talks begin; that both sides want peace; that negotiations could be fruitful and heck, that a solution is reached. Picture the scene, Netanyahu and Abbas could stand arm in arm on Temple Mount each waving a piece of paper to the gathered masses. Palestinians and Jews would embrace, the status of hummus as a joint Israeli-Arab dish would be assured and the respective leaders heads of state would proclaim, "(real) Peace in our time," or whatever the Hebrew and Arabic equivalent is, ignoring the previous connotations of that phrase. We could head to my uncle's bakery for a sandwich and then on to a local falafel and shawarma joint to really kick-start the party, sharing many a tale from the past few centuries of conflict joking about how we have managed to fool the West into believing it all began in 1948. Does that not sound all so amazing? I cannot wait.

But then you come back to the real world. You realise that even with the best of intentions on both sides, the above picture is a distant dream regardless of whether Abbas and Netanyahu want peace or can negotiate peace. Many will argue that neither truly wants peace in the first place, so there is not much point in starting them off on whether a negotiated settlement is possible. And even pulling on our Economist caps on, assuming those problems away, it does not look much better. There are many obstacles to peace, on both sides. There are many that a good, honest desire for peace could help erode. There is (at least) one, however, that no desire for peace can erode; one that makes the smell of falafel and hummus together on a sunny evening disappear quicker than you can say 'pitta bread'. That one obstacle is Hamas and the Gaza/West Bank divide.

Abbas may command (minimal) legitimacy in the West Bank (ignoring, as you must, the lack of elections and rampant corruption to mention but two problems with his leadership), but he cannot even see the other half of the territory that he claims to represent with binoculars, let alone step foot inside it. Whether you want to argue that Hamas is the legitimate representatives of those Palestinians (some will argue they were democratically elected) is neither here nor there. What is impossible to argue is that Abbas represents the Gazans. He simply does not, that is just the cold hard truth. For him to be negotiating a peace deal that Hamas has already rejected (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/05/201353144052527593.html), on behalf of Palestinians under Hamas rule, makes a mockery of the proposal. Abbas simply has no authority to negotiate a Palestinian state that includes Gaza which it surely would.

I hope you can forgive my obvious pessimism about the latest announcement. I do sincerely hope, pray and (dare I say it) dream that we will see peace in our time. The Palestinian and Jewish people deserve a lasting peace that has a viable Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state with its security guaranteed. The latest round peace talks, however, can, at best, end with Abbas declaring a Palestinian state in the West Bank with Gaza continuing to provide the home for rocket fire into Israel. That is not a peace that any Israeli leader can or will accept.

Turn off the ovens Binyamin, falafel and shawarma will have to wait.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

It's the Thought that Counts

There is a fantastic quote by everyone's second favourite Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (second to, obviously, my Philosophy teacher Dr Jonas Green) which goes as follows:

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought they seldom use"

It rings true when thinking about people who appeal to their freedom of speech to justify saying some truly hateful and horrible things that any decent human being would not dream of thinking, let alone saying. There are countless people like this, people who benefit from living in a democracy where we have to put up with views that not only we fundamentally disagree with but also that we find abhorrant. As much as there is a bit of me that believes freedom of speech should only be a right for those who also exercise freedom of thought before they speak, I would not change that. 

That quotation seems to fit nicely when thinking about Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer (and the EDL and, of course, radical Islamic clerics and so on) - all people who say things that, perhaps, are only justifiable by appealing to freedom of speech but who choose to abstain from thinking (or at least, are unable to think what I would term 'properly'). You may think I am now going to proceed with an article broadly along the lines of defending freedom of speech and, yeah-we-may-not-like-what-they-say-but-that-does-not-mean-they-don't-have-a-right-to-say-it and all the rest of it. If you were hoping for that sort of article there are plenty to be found on the web (like here) but I will not be indulging in one here. It is a relatively easy point to make, one that I think has been made to death on social media and, indeed, in articles like the one I have linked. In addition, when you see tweets suggesting David Cameron is a Nazi sympathiser because of this decision, you wonder to what extent you really can defend freedom of speech. If you were, however, looking for a different take on the decision then read on.

This post is simply about what an awful decision I think May has made. Not because of freedom of speech. Not because there are plenty of other people that we are forced to put up with in this country that we disagree with (isn't it slightly telling that the only examples all these bastians of free speech and democracy can think of, however, are Islamic radicals? It is almost like they have some sort of agenda...) No, rather, it is simply because being banned from speaking in the country is almost better for Geller and Spencer (and their supporters) than being allowed to speak in the country. It has turned what is a relatively routine occurrence - people whose views other people do not agree with or even find hateful etc, flying to other countries to spout the very views that those other people did not agree with or found hateful, into news. In fact, it has almost turned Geller and Spencer into the victims of oppression, namely the oppression of their free speech. What an absurd turn of events! You will have read all the articles on freedom of speech, double standards and all the rest of it. Those articles, those arguments are only made possible because of Vaz's proposal and May's decision to ban them from entering the country. No one would have even known about Geller and Spencer had they simply been allowed to spew their hatred and been done with it.

Freedom of speech is wonderful because it allows us to see what people really believe, to see what people say when they are free to say whatever they want. Freedom of thought allows the rest of us to make up our own minds about whether we agree. 

Friday, 31 May 2013

Israel and higher moral standards

"I'm not singling out the world's only Jewish state, I merely hold Israel to a higher moral standard because it claims to be a democracy."

A line I have encountered many times. So here are some thoughts:

If Israel were not a democracy, would you ignore the crimes you claim Israel is guilty of in much the same way that you currently ignore the actual crimes of states like Syria, Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Egypt, Lebanon etc etc?

If you would ignore Israel's crimes should it not be a democracy, are you suggesting that Netanyahu declare himself dictator and suspend all elections?

If you would continue in your anti-Israel activism, what justification would you now offer seeing as it is on the same moral standings as nations you previously chose to ignore because you felt you could hold Israel to a higher moral standard?

I'm genuinely interested, please answer simply.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Stunned into Silence

Tonight marks the eve of Holocaust Remembrance day, the day that we remember all the victims of the Nazi genocide. A genocide that many deny, others delight in and some wish to enact all over again. The amount of times I have been told to "go back to the gas chambers" or that someone understood why Hitler left some Jews and that was so that the world would understand why he killed the rest is horrific. Perhaps the world will never be rid of such ignorance and hatred but this post is not about that. Rather it is about my trip to Auschwitz.

Just over a year ago now I visited Auschwitz with my school on a History trip. I did not know what to expect. I mean I knew what happened - I had learnt about it in school; watched programmes about it; read books written on it but with all the knowledge on the Holocaust in the world nothing could prepare you for visiting Auschwitz. You can try and picture the horrors but no matter how many pictures you have seen; irrespective of the videos you have watched and regardless of the knowledge you think you have acquired, nothing will quite compare to actually walking around the crumbling death camp and experiencing the surroundings that were, for 1.5 million people, the last things they saw before their lives were cruelly taken. Sometimes I go through the pictures I took, 4 of which appear here, and try and remember how I felt walking around taking them but I simply can't. It is a place you have to experience to understand.

"To the memory
of the men, women and children who
fell victim to the Nazi Genocide.
Here lie their ashes
May their souls rest in peace."
Understandably, I was nervous on the coach ride there. I was worried that I would not feel anything inside, that emotionally I might not react as would be expected of a Jew.  I need not have worried. There was an eerie silence, a mist appropriately covering the perimeter to the camp and I instantly felt chills go down my spine. From the moment we got of the coach, until we sat down for lunch and then until the end of the day, I do not think a Habs Boy uttered a word out of turn (if at all) and the only sound to be heard was the occasional clicking of a camera and the tour guide who every so often would say something about where we were. There was no obligation to listen to her, we were left to wander around freely and take in the site in whatever way we felt appropriate. Silently, slowly and subdued in our case.

It is impossible to take everything in. As I walked around, I was constantly hit by the thought, "This is a place that people were brought to be killed, the purpose of every building on this vast patch of land was to aid, in some way, with the killing of innocent people." Just think about that for a minute. It rendered me immobile on many occasions, whether I had just seen what remained of living quarters or heard stories of children being instantly separated from their parents. The whole thing is literally incredible.

Every so often I would walk close enough to the guide to hear what she was saying. Almost every time it shocked me, just when you thought the horrors of Auschwitz could not get any greater, they would. The most chilling comment, the comment that I can still picture her saying was as we were stood next to one of the memorials (to the left above). There were quite a few of those stone blocks dotted around, always appearing as fours - in Hebrew, English, Roma and Polish. We'd stopped, broadly in our group, gathered around the first set of four we'd come across when she uttered a few words that shocked me to my very core:

"...And it is a sad fact that wherever you walk in Auschwitz you are walking on the ashes of people whose bodies were burnt after the Nazis murdered them..."

She went on but I do not remember what else she said. I lifted my foot up nervously. You could not see anything other than grass but to imagine that, with certainty, you had stepped on the ashes of someone murdered by the Nazis, perhaps even a child, was an image that I do not think I will ever be able to erase from my mind.







The rest of the day followed the same pattern. We would slowly walk around, silently, and every so often something else would be seen or said that would shock us a little bit more. We would see a the chimney of a gas chamber; an exhibit of all the hair shaven from the individuals at Auschwitz or hear about the trainloads of Jews arriving on those iconic railway tracks (below and above), many who were immediately marked out for death. There was no rush, there was no where we had to get to and everyone took the day at their own pace. Boys paused and looked around, trying to understand what had happened there; trying to picture what 1.5 million dead bodies would look like but you can't. The more I thought about everything, the more I could not believe that something like this could have actually happened. And then it hits you, "But it did, it actually did." The moment of stunned realisation happened to me many times during the day.

I had never heard so little from a group of Habs Boys before. Of course you could argue that is not surprising. Sure Habs Boys are loud and whatever else, but when it comes to it very few people, least of all supposedly intelligent ones, could be disrespectful walking around Auschwitz, so of course they were quiet, they were just being respectful. There was something else though. There was a feeling, at least for me, that even if I tried to speak words would not come out. That is what Auschwitz does to you, it renders you speechless so shocked you are by what happened on the very ground you are walking.


If you have not been to Auschwitz, I would recommend it as an experience that is incomparable to any other. You will not enjoy it, that is not the point, but you will learn a huge amount about the unspeakable inhumanity that humanity can show. A lesson that, unfortunately, remains needing teaching. Dwight D. Eisenhower said of the Holocaust:

“Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses -because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened,”

and how right he was. 

The systematic plans to exterminate an entire race of people from the face of the Earth is something that, hopefully, we will never ever witness again. That is what we mean when we say never again. 

Those words will stay with me for the rest of my life


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Hardly an Apology

News that Turkey and Israel have resumed diplomatic relations is good news. News that it comes on the back of an "apology" is relatively irrelevant for two reasons:
  • It wasn't exactly an apology

    Netanyahu apologised for "any mistakes which led to the loss of life". Well yes. As far as Israel is concerned, it is always apologetic for mistakes which lead to loss of life and always regrets loss of life full stop. As much as western media will try and portray Israel as some sort of vicious, murderous and blood thirsty nation, content with nothing more than spilling the blood of those who do not accept its right to existence this is simply not the case. So of course Israel is apologetic for any mistakes which lead to a loss of life.

    Crucially, there was no apology for the raid itself. Frankly, that is not something Israel has to apologise for anyway. 
  • There was probably an incentive involved

    Quite simply, Obama must have convinced Netanyahu that it would be worth his while. Perhaps  it has to do with Turkey's strategic position with regards to Iran or just simply the importance of ties with neighbouring states for reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that Syria is in a very dangerous mess at the moment.
So not only has Netanyahu (correctly in my view) not apologised for the raid itself but the apology he has made was probably helped along by an incentive anyway. Hardly news really.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Things I would make Illegal

Pet hates. We all have them. Little things that, given the chance, we would happily make illegal. I will, no doubt, be forced to add to this list as I go about my daily life, trying desperately not to be annoyed by trivialities and failing miserably.

Here's my list:

1. Wearing Ugg Boots outside the house

Stupidly hideous slippers that do not deserve to be called shoes. Condonable when worn indoors out of sight. Not acceptable in any other situation. Because they are comfortable is no excuse.

2. Tea practices that I disagree with

Tea bags, sugar in tea, putting the milk second would all be banned. Either drink proper English breakfast loose leaf tea correctly left to brew and then poured into a cup already containing milk or stick to coffee. Or something else. Just not tea. Please. Mint tea is acceptable. Just none of this fruit tea nonsense either.

3. Using 'literally' incorrectly 

This really annoys me. For example, there were literally 1 million people in the room. Unless there were ACTUALLY a million people in that room, you cannot say there were literally a million people in that room. Well you can. But you really really shouldn't. Just no. Don't do it. Ever. Literally.

Update: Thanks to the idiots of the world, literally now means literally and literally the opposite of literally. Fan-bloody-tastic.

4. Restaurants adding service charges to the bill

Don't go assuming I would have tipped. I was once told this was done for "my convenience". Go away.

5. Art that isn't

You know - those plain canvases with squares on them that are labelled "modern art". There is nothing artistic about it. My cousin's twins, barely a year old, could do that. Stop it.

6. 'Slippery when wet' signs

Please assume, until notified otherwise, that everything is (at the very least more) slippery when wet.

7. The phrase "inclement weather"

Last heard at London tube stations. Never heard up north where they prefer the simpler and better 'wet'

8. Saying things like "I'm not racist/sexist/homophobic/anti-Semitic etc but..."

Let's be clear here, saying "I'm not...but" does not therefore render your statement not whatever you claimed not to be. In more cases than not, any comment preceeded by the phrase: "I'm not racist but..." is racist, likewise for the other variants. If you feel the need to say "I'm not racist" just stop there.

(A new personal favourite is "I'm not insulting the memory of those killed by Hitler but..." which I was tweeted recently)

9. Being George Galloway

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

10. Alan Smith, Robbie Savage, Andy Townsend, Adrian Chiles, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen, Lee Dixon, Mark Lawrenson, Gareth Southgate, Jamie Redknapp, Gary Lineker, Alan McInally, Niall Quinn, Martin Tyler and Paul Merson ever presenting or commentating on a game of football. 

Suicide, metaphorically of course, is contemplated whenever any of the above start speaking about football. Just so bad. (Mentioned above in no particular order). No thank you.

11. Middle lane hogs

Ohhh these bastards annoy me. Learn to drive. Don't sit in the middle lane on a motorway doing 50 miles an hour. Dangerous, frustrating and just so inconsiderate. Behave.

12. Quoting a tweet on twitter and adding nothing

Just RT it. And whilst we're at it. Tweet theft. No.

13. Smugness about passing your driving test first time

This has nothing to do with the fact I passed 5th time. Nothing.

14. Invoking the law of the excluded middle

You'll either love it or hate it. It'll either work really well or not at all. This has the potential to be superb or awful. Most commonly heard on talent shows when a contestant describes an obscure talent or on Masterchef when Greg hears a flavour combination he's not had before. ARGH. I have a policy of remaining indifferent to absolutely everything that is described in this way. Infuriating stuff.

15. Simon Cowell's thumbs up

Not really sure why this one annoys me. But it does. Rest assured it does.

16. Wearing sunglasses when there is no sun

My mother is the main culprit. The clue is in the name. "sun" glasses. To be worn in sunny weather. Not inside. Not on the tube. Not anywhere but outside on a sunny day.

Update:

Update 25/05:

17. The use of the word banter

I am ashamed to admit I was once one of those who justified anything and everything as banter. I grew up. You should too. 

Update 27/05:

18. Celebrity couple names

Latest example being 'Kimye'. Please stop it. 

19. Views are my own or words to that effect

Find this frankly absurd. Let's assume views are one's own until specified otherwise. I mean, can we designate our views to other people? All views in this blog are the views of the Labour party. Does that work? Made worse when an attempt at a "humorous" variation is made in a twitter bio. Grow up. Find something interesting about yourself to put in your twitter bio. I'll assume the views are yours. Kthxbai.

Update 2/06:

20. The phrase "at this moment in time"

Say now like a normal person. 

Update 8/06:

21. Mexican Waves


Thursday, 21 February 2013

My Letter To George Galloway

Below is a letter I have just sent to George Galloway MP regarding his upcoming attendance at Warwick University's Middle East and Africa Forum.

"Dear Mr Galloway,

I am a Warwick University Student who has recently purchased a ticket to attend the Middle East and Africa Forum you will be attending on 2nd March. In light of recent events at the University of Oxford, I feel I should inform you ahead of time that there may be Israelis present at the event. Indeed, for what it is worth, I, myself, hold an Israeli passport (with some pride I may add). I hope you will see my good intentions for I only do so because I do not want a situation where you feel that you have been misled in anyway as you claimed to have been with the Oxford University debate you so superbly stormed out of.

I look forward to an engaging debate and forum where all opinions are heard, listened to and respected regardless of already held beliefs.

Yours Sincerely,

Raphael Levy (Oh I am Jewish as well)"

I doubt I will get a reply. Maybe, just maybe, Mr Galloway will surprise us all and inform me that he shares my anticipation for a proper debate with all those present on the topics that will be discussed at the forum in question. Seeing as he has blocked me on Twitter I do not think I will hold out much hope.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Grumbles about Gun Control

Some say I moan too much. It is probably difficult for me to disagree with that, especially given the nature of this post. The gun control debate is an interesting one. Once you get rid of the, and excuse my frankness, nut-jobs who think "1776 will commence again" or that 9/11 was an inside job, for example, I think there are arguments on both sides. Let's be clear, I do not for a minute support having armed guards outside schools, but some of the "Gun Control isn't the answer" arguments have some strength - namely that the cause of gun murders (whilst not helped by guns - duh!) are not solely caused by the ease of getting guns, necessarily. Things like mental health checks, better background checks and a programme to change the gun culture in America are all policies which can be implemented without actually restricting the sale of guns to people that "the right" believe are entitled to them (although we can argue all day long about whether anyone needs a semi-automatic rifle, for example). And if anything, I think these are all policies which will be much more effective than banning certain types of guns or all guns, in America at least.

The point of this blog, however, is not to argue for or against gun control but it is indicate 12 major grumbles I have with the pro-gun arguments. It is attempts at arguments like these which make me support Barack Obama in America because the alternative is the sort of people who think the below points are good ones. It says a lot about the state of the American right that I support Barack Obama almost out of pity because he has to put up with such irrational, moronic and patently absurd opposition. Anyway:

1. "Handguns are the major cause of gun murders, not semi-automatic rifles, why don't you ban those?" which is usually preceded or followed by "You are anti the second amendment".

Look, you can wave your stats at me (or, rather, Ben Shapiro can wave them at Piers Morgan) all day long, we can have a debate about that if you want keeping in mind, all the while, what Disraeli said about statistics: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics". What infuriates me is when you try and argue that people who support a ban on semi-automatic rifles but not handguns are anti-constitutional. It does not say anywhere that Americans have a right to semi-automatic rifles. In fact, the reason most people aren't in favour of banning handguns is exactly for the opposite of what you seem so relaxed about accusing them of. They aren't anti-constitutional, rather they are pro the constitution - they support the right of Americans to own a handgun (and thus bear arms). They just happen to think that a semi-automatic rifle is not necessary. And you know what? It probably isn't. But either way, accusing someone of being anti-constitutional for wanting to ban semi-automatic rifles and then asking them why they don't ban handguns is ludicrous. You simply cannot have it both ways - stop trying to paint some of these people as anti-constitutional when really they just want fair and proper gun control all the while supporting what I, as Brit who feels able to solve his problems with a good dose of sarcasm and not pissing people bigger than me off, think is a ludicrous right to bear arms.

2. "How can you support gun control, you support abortion"

This is usually followed with a number of abortions carried out in the USA. I understand why people do this - if you're so concerned by the death of innocent children, then you should be pro-'life' (why the anti-abortion campaign is labelled as 'pro-life' when it is a) in no way pro the life of the women forced to have a baby and b) simply anti-choice - the right would not like that!) because life begins in the womb. However, the whole point about pro-choice people, is that they do not believe this and to base an argument on this premise being accepted when it simply is not is plain lazy. Ignoring that, it is also irrelevant. They are two separate arguments and, frankly, I'm tired of people trying to get in a case for abortion being illegal when arguing about gun control. Stop changing the subject. 

3. "Barack Obama has bodyguards, why shouldn't our children?"

On the face of it, this seems a reasonable point. When you have a little think, you will realise just how absurd the link made to make this point is. When someone goes off to kill innocents for whatever reason, he does so without due care and attention to who he kills - armed guards at a school, children, bystanders - it really doesn't matter to him or her who ends up dead. However, when someone attempts to kill the President, killing 3 secret service staff and a butler really does not send the same message. Therefore it makes sense to protect the President to ensure that this *target* survives. Armed guards, however, cannot protect every target of the mass murderer which is simply "anyone". Try harder. Make better arguments for putting guns in schools. By children. 

4. "But we need our guns to defend ourselves against the government"

This is usually followed by some reference to either Hitler or a collection of mass murderers who took the guns before embarking on their programme of mass murder. It is comments like this that make me think humanity is a lost cause and the only way it is redeemed is if there are just a huge amount of internet trolls about. Aside from the fact it is simply incredibly disrespectful to the millions who suffered at the hand of the Nazis, let's take a moment to consider what this comparison means. Essentially, gun control is what led to 6 million Jews dying. Not Hitler. Not hateful ideology. But gun control. How ignorant, disrespectful and frankly disgraceful. Sigh. But yes, back the the point. Let's ignore the reference to history and people like Hitler and concentrate on the absurd notion that a semi-automatic rifle will be a defence against the military power of the United States. Even the most insane right wing American idiot must realise that this is a ludicrous reason to have guns. Putting aside the fact that Obama is not going to start a civil war against America (no matter what the American right may believe), if he chose to and really wanted to, I think he'd win. Semi-automatics banned or not. So please stop it.

5. *Insert Gun Control Advocate Here* is dancing on the graves of children

Often followed by the brilliant, "I bet you are happy those children died, it allows you to advance your agenda." What?! Other than making it sound like the agenda is, wait for it, for kids not to die, this is such a horrible point to make. Let's be quite clear, not one gun control advocate wants kids to die - that is kind of the point and to claim they are happy that massacres happen so they can advance a case for gun control is ludicrous. Argue for no gun control all you want. Make salient points though, ones that don't require you to claim that people are happy kids die.

6. "I THOUGHT BOMBS WERE ILLEGAL"

I tweeted a few hours after the tragic Boston Marathon explosions, asking how long it would be before someone tweeted something along the lines of explosives being illegal in reference to gun control. I am afraid "Making things illegal doesn't stop them happening" is not an argument. It's not a valid point. It's requires a very loose definition of the word point to be one. It's barely a relevant statement. If I'm honest I cannot believe I only just remembered this one now. Sigh.

*In other news, could I just add my voice to the growing number expressing condolences and well wishes to all those affected by the tragic events that unfolded in Boston earlier today. Let's hope the perpetrators are brought to justice quickly.*

7. Ah, but the statistics show that these states with stricter gun control actually have higher gun murder rates.

Um. No. Just no. If you think this is a good argument look up the following words in a dictionary: 'correlation', 'does', 'not', 'imply' and 'causation'. We all know statistics are misleading:

Have you stopped to consider how many of those murders were with guns bought in that particular state? In other words, the issue is not gun control but the lack of it in surrounding states. Was the murder carried out by a gun holder who purchased his gun legally in a state with lax gun laws and would not have been able to purchase it in the state with stricter gun laws?

Have you done research into how many of those 'murders' were suicide? Or accidental? I.e. because of the existence of guns in the first place, not the lack of the beautifully named 'good guy with a gun'.

Have you examined the type of gun control in place against that which is being proposed? Not all gun control is the same, surprisingly, so you cannot blanket reject anything termed gun control based on statistics from a state which may have a completely different type of gun control.

Until you do all this research, your statistic is a meaningless number. You may as well tell me the number of people who purchase tomatoes in Dorset.

8. "Criminals break the law anyway."

So legalise everything? I really do not get this point. Of course criminals break the law, that is not an argument to not have laws.

9. "Murder can be carried out with any object"

You try killing 30 people with a vegetable peeler.

10. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people"

This is akin to the above grumble and indeed can be responded in exactly the same way (i.e. guns make it easier to kill people) but let's accept the logic for a minute. I agree, people do kill people. So perhaps we should have some sort of legislation that...erm...you know...er...checks what sort of people we let buy guns? Like background checks on the people trying to purchase a gun. Revolutionary.

11. "But we are judging all *law abiding* gun owners by the actions of a few nutters"

I just saw this tweet RTed onto my timeline:

 "Don't judge all Muslims by the acts of a few nutters...but the acts of a few nutters makes it ok to judge all *law-abiding* gun owners?"

Ignoring the fact this was the sort of person who absolutely does judge all Muslims by the actions of a few, this is just a ludicrous point to try and make. Firstly, and most importantly, there is no comparison between calling for gun control and suggesting that maybe it is just little teeny tiny bit racist (or, you know, very racist) to argue all Muslims are suicide bombers or terrorists. Absolutely no comparison whatsoever. I mean, is the point this person is making that, because we do not call all Muslims terrorists, we should not have gun control? Seriously?

12. Gun Control wouldn't have stopped massacre X or event Y

First off, is it not interesting how the NRA and gun nuts in America seem to have an apparently exclusive ability to predict exactly what would have happened if something had been the case. More importantly, this is simply irrelevant. Even if I accepted that gun control would not have prevented massacre X, this does not then entail we should all do absolutely nothing about gun violence. For some reason, gun control is held to this impossibly high standard where it needs to solve all problems ever for the rest of time. It seems to me that even if a direct link between enacting gun control and ending all wars could be found the NRA would still be against it. They'd probably complain it didn't cure cancer or something. Go away.

I have edited this post a few times now. One day it might just be complete and I will have exhausted the list of stupid, lazy and frankly absurd arguments people make against the gun control case. Until then I will continue adding to this list. Whether I am pro or anti guns (I think you can pretty much guess) is irrelevant, I enjoy debate. What I do not enjoy is lazy or ignorant people throwing meaningless statistics at me or making lazy arguments to make emotive points. There is real debate to be had about whether gun control will work in America and I think it is a good debate. Unfortunately, I think that even with banning high capacity magazines or semi-automatic rifles, the murder rate in America due to gun violence will not fall significantly nor will there be fewer mass shootings. Why? In part because the right is correct to say people who want to kill will find a way to do so (this does not then imply "GIVE EVERYONE GUNS"), but more importantly because of improper background checks, mental health ignorance and the gun culture that exists in the US. So it is not as simple as banning guns, a select few or all of them, the three aforementioned things need to be changed in addition and as a priority.