Gun control and the Hitler myth

“To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens” – Adolf Hitler (or maybe not), 1933 (or maybe not)

If you’re interested in the “gun control debate” (especially in the USA) then no doubt you will have come across this quote at some point. It’s used to persuade people that gun control is a bad thing. The track to tighter controls will end at Nazi Central, and we don’t want that, do we? And so those in favour of guns-for-all, more guns in schools and guns just about everywhere invoke the words of one of the world’s most evil men. The argument goes that if people are allowed to keep firearms in their homes, an armed coup (by government or some other armed group) is made less likely, because the citizenry will rise up as one and defeat the nasty people. And every day will be the first day of Spring, and so on and so forth. Hitler succeeded because no-one had any guns to stop him.

They know their history like Mr Creosote knew his salads, i.e not very well. Here’s why:

(1) The quote

There is no evidence that Hitler ever uttered those words, though it’s reasonable to assume that he agreed with the sentiment. But that’s different, isn’t it? Don’t “quote” someone unless they actually said those words. Quotes are what people actually said, not what Brian from down the pub reckons someone probably said and even if he didn’t then it’s what he thought and he probably, in his final bunker moments, wished he’d said it. It’s a bit too important a quote to treat it as if you are a hack from The Sun making stuff up as you go along because proper journalism is too much like hard work. Quotes are what people said, not what you wish they’d said.

(2) Believing Hitler

Leaving aside the above, let’s just pretend that Hitler did actually utter those words. So, if I’m not mistaken, people are using the words of one of the most twisted and evil men there’s ever been to prove that their opinion is more valid than the opposing opinion? Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd? Are there no other great words from the advocates of wider gun ownership that can be quoted? Do they have to resort to quoting a man responsible for the deaths of millions in order to bolster the point? Has it occurred to them that the man was a little bit strange, a bit of an oddball, and that he did have a tendency to make stuff up? Could he have been making this up? Even if he was being genuine, does the idea that he said this really reinforce the argument? I don’t recall “Yeah, Hitler said it, so I guess it’s true” cropping-up too much in History seminars I attended, but I could be wrong.

(3) Meaning

Again, we’ll suspend disbelief for a bit and pretend that Hitler did actually utter those words. What could he have meant?

(a) That Nazi subjugation of the German nation would have been made more difficult had more Germans owned guns

A ridiculous notion, since the Nazis assumed power through legal means in 1933. So the quote can hardly be seen as a kind of “Phew, what a great idea to take all their guns away so we could gain power”. The main reason there was no meaningful armed resistance to the Nazi assumption of power was because it was legitimate, albeit on the back of clever political manoeuvring. It was no more illegal than the Tory-Liberal shenanigans of May 2010 in the UK. It is an absolute lie to suggest that the Nazis first disarmed the German population before seizing control in a bloody coup.

(b) Duh! He was referring to the 1938 law that the Nazis passed

Duh! Unlikely, given that the mythical “quote” is from 1933 (or did you just pluck that year out of the air because you knew none of the people who want to believe the quote would bother to check the facts?) And anyway, the 1938 law actually liberalised German gun laws, making acquisition of rifles and shotguns easier, rather than more difficult. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Only the Jews were disadvantaged by the 1938 law. I have no recollection of Obama speeches specifically calling for certain ethnic groups to be deprived of guns. Do you?

(c)  He was obviously talking about other nations that Germany occupied and oppressed

OK, so which nations had he oppressed and invaded in 1933? I’m all ears.

(d) OK, so the quote wasn’t from 1933 but later. Isn’t it still valid?

The “quote” probably owes itself to an April 1942 comment that Hitler made in which he referred to not allowing “subject races” access to guns. He is clearly talking about actions to be taken once nations in Eastern Europe (he specifically mentions Russia) have been subjugated. So he thought that conquered people might be a bit angry with their German occupiers and that allowing them to have guns would be a bad idea. Not exactly V2 rocket science, is it? Hardly hits you between the eyes as a brilliant piece of insight the likes of which could only be conceived by a genius, does it?

If you’ve heard of “Godwin’s Law” you’ll know that it is the belief that as online discussions evolve they eventually lead to someone comparing someone else to Hitler, or  perhaps comparing something that is being said or done to Nazism. What the gun lobby have done is evoke a kind of Godwin’s Law of their own. “Hey everyone, look what Adolf Hitler said. Believe us now”? In a nutshell, no, I don’t.

Just as it’s a sign of desperation and a lack of an alternative, reasonable argument when you have to resort to comparing someone who disagrees with you to Hitler, so misquoting Hitler (or telling lies about what he said) is a sign that your arguments are built on extremely shaky ground. The lunatics and frauds who work for Fox News (to call them “journalists” would be disgraceful and an insult to real journalists) perpetuate the lie, as perpetuating lies is the only thing they do well, apart from cheerleading when shepherds and goat-herders are eviscerated by “smart” bombs.

When you invoke “history” you need to get your facts right. And even when your facts are right, just because xyz happened in a certain country many decades ago does not mean that similar actions in modern societies will lead to similar results. But before we get to that stage, the people opposed to extended gun control just need to concentrate on getting their history in order. Just like some half-wits will tell you that atheism is evil because Hitler and Stalin were atheists (Hitler was incontrovertibly not an atheist, and though Stalin certainly was he had been sent to a seminary to train as a priest when he was fourteen, which seemed to do him the power of good!) so they will peddle the lie that Hitler succeeded due to tight gun control laws.

It simply isn’t true.

PS

Mass-shootings in the USA in the last three decades: 62

Amount of the above that were halted by an armed citizen with a gun: 0

Conclusion: People like to think they would “do something” when confronted by a rampaging, gun-carrying lunatic. They almost always do nothing, except run and hide. They like to think they are Rambo. They aren’t.

Do you drink water? So did he.

“ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Fox News”

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A drinker’s farewell

A fairly rich man was given less than twelve months to live. He had no children, no family, just an estranged wife who had run off with her fitness instructor a couple of years earlier. After his cancer specialist had given him the bad news, he stopped working and started drinking, day after day, determined to enjoy his last few months with friends in the local pubs whilst ensuring that his wife (who didn’t know about his illness and had recently begun divorce proceedings) didn’t get her hands on any of his money. Whenever he was in a pub, which was most of the time, if someone walked through the door he bought them a drink. Friends got the occasional round of drinks in, but most of the time they were instructed to keep their wallets firmly closed. He spent, on average, well over a thousand pounds a week in the village’s three pubs. Then he gave his big house to a children’s charity, on the understanding that he could continue to live there until his death.

When he had just days to live, he lay in his hospital bed and wrote a note to his wife, and placed it in an envelope which he then sealed. On the front of the envelope he wrote: “To be opened after my death”. Then he asked the duty nurse for the telephone, so he could make a call to a friend.

After the funeral, all his friends and acquaintances went back to his favourite pub, The Bell. His wife and the fitness instructor did too, at the landlord’s request. Once everyone had a drink in their hand, the landlord opened the envelope. He asked for silence, then to the assembled throng he began to read aloud the words written on the single sheet of paper…

For the attention of my wife

I’ve died before, you ought to know,

When I stood in the gloom and watched you go,

And now I’m dead again, but honey,

I want you to know that there’s, well, no money,

That’s right my love, it’s true my dear,

The cash has gone, all spent on beer,

I like a pint, you may recall,

So I’ve pissed my money up the wall,

Don’t be upset, and please don’t blub,

I’ve had some great times down the pub,

And since you left, that’s where I’ve been,

The Bell, Red Lion, King & Queen,

The landlords, they all knew my name,

For them, life will not be the same,

The customers too will find it odd,

No more free drinks from pissed old sod,

‘cos for three years now, I’ve spent my life,

Imbibing to forget my wife,

A one man war on sobriety,

Waged in three pubs, for variety,

But life for me is over now,

So cheerio, deceitful cow,

You’re getting nothing, not a cent,

The cash has gone, it’s all been spent,

The last of it bought you that drink,

I’ve spent it wisely, don’t you think?

So raise your glass and drink a toast,

To beer, the love I’ve loved the most.

Mr Allardyce goes to Madrid

DATE: June 3rd 2013

PLACE: Directors’ Boardroom, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

——————————————————————————————————–

Barely twenty-four hours after completing their final league fixture, Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho have gone their separate ways. The club finished as runners-up in La Liga to the mighty Barcelona and were knocked-out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage by Bayern Munich, who went on to lose in the final to… Barcelona. The Madrid board are desperate for a new man to take over at one of the world’s biggest clubs. Somehow, and no-one seems sure quite how, the CV of Mr Samuel Allardyce (Football Visionary and recently-sacked manager of West Ham Utd) has made its way through the application “weeding-out” process and he is now one of three men to be interviewed for the coveted post.

Club President Florentino Perez asks the questions…

PEREZ (P): “Hello, Mr Allardyce. welcome to our club. Is it OK for me to call you Sam”?

ALLARDYCE (A): (removes chewing gum from his mouth and throws it towards the bin, which it misses by some distance) “Cheers, Mr Chairman, nice to be here. Yeah, call me Sam and I’ll call you Florence”.

(P): (rather puzzled) “Ah, er, OK then. And how are you finding our beautiful city? I hope you like it”.

(A): “Not really. I’ve been just about everywhere looking for a pint of bitter. Nowt to be had it seems. Bloody disgraceful”.

(P): “I see, what a shame. We don’t really have that here. I can offer you a Sol though”.

(A): “Yeah, fine. Give him a three-year contract and 130 grand a week, or euros or whatever it is here in Dagoland. He was good at Arsenal and Spurs, he could do a job for us”.

(P): “I wasn’t talking about Mr Campbell. Sol is a lager”.

(A): “Don’t be daft, Florrie. I’m not drinking that crap. Could murder a bacon buttie though”.

(P): “If you would like some food we can have some tapas. You have heard of tapas, yes”?

(A): “Tapas? Sounds a bit like tippy-tapas to me. Thirty-seven passes and you end up going nowhere. Not proper football is it? No thanks, Flo”.

(P): “You will of course be familiar with our great club though? And its great traditions”?

(A): “Sure, sure”.

(P): “You’ve heard of Di Stefano”?

(A): “Not heard of her, no. Italian bird is she”?

(P): (bemused) “Puskas”?

(A): “Spanish cat food, ain’t it”?

(P): (head in his hands) “What about Hugo Sanchez”?

(A): “Oh yes, I’ve heard of him”.

(P): “Well, that’s something I suppose”.

(A): “Yeah, got one of his suits on right now. Lovely cut don’t you think”?

(P): (exasperated) “And the city of Madrid has a great history of course. Have you been to the Prado”?

(A): “Nah, I leave the shopping to the wife. She went out and did a bit earlier. I stayed in the hotel and watched Colchester v Tranmere. Cracking game, none of that fancy stuff”.

(P): “Sam, the Prado is our world famous art gallery and museum. Picasso’s “Guernica” is on show there”.

(A): “Gurney what”?

(P): “The town of Guernica was bombed in the Civil War, Sam. Many people died. Picasso’s painting sums up the pain and desperation of the people there”.

(A): “Probably not as bad as Preston on a Friday night. Load of Spanish jessies. Where is this place”?

(P): “In the north of Spain. Basque country”.

(A): “So even the northerners here are a load of lightweights? I’m starting to think this might not be the job for me”.

(P): “Strange that you should say that, Sam. Tell me, what is your perception of this club”?

(A): (quickly stuffing some more gum in his mouth) “I don’t like perception. There’s too much of it in the game”.

(P): “I see. What can you tell me about our players”?

(A): “I know you’ve got that Ronaldo bloke, the Portuguese fairy. And I had Hierro and Ivan Campo at Bolton for a bit. You must remember Campo? Looked like Shergar wearing a wig”.

(P): (Laughing) “Oh, yes. So you were in charge of the team that topped-up their pensions, were you? Tell me, Sam, what can you bring to this great club”?

(A): “Stability, mainly. A period of consolidation. Give it three years and I’ll have the place sorted”.

(P): “Three years? We don’t have that luxury”.

(A): “OK, well I’ll try to get Nolan and Jaaskelainen quicker if I can…”

(P): “You have heard of Barcelona, haven’t you? And Messi”?

(A): “Of course. They’re OK, too many passes though. Never go anywhere”.

(P): “Except to the Champions League Final most years”?

(A): “Exactly. And that Messi bloke, we had him on trial at Blackburn. No good at defending set-pieces and couldn’t kick the ball more than 70 yards. Useless he was”.

(P): “Sam, I like to be direct when I talk to people. I must admit that I have looked at your CV and I don’t really think that you are suited to this club”.

(A): “You listen to me, Flossie. I’ve won the League of Ireland with Limerick and Div Three with Notts County. How many of your previous managers could say that”?

(P): “Er… “

(A): “Precisely. And I bet none of them kept West Ham up on goal difference either. You can stick your job, Flo-Jo. I’m off to somewhere my tactics and style will be appreciated”.

(P): (picking up the phone to his secretary) “OK Sam, as you wish…”

“Miss Gutierrez, a taxi for Mr Allardyce please. Yes, going to Madrid Rugby Club. Thank you”.

"And would you like fries with that"?

“And would you like fries with that”?

An Englishman’s home…

One of the favourite themes of the tabloid press is the “rights” of homeowners when intruders arrive uninvited on their property. It’s a favourite theme of the Conservative Party too, and the Prime Minister touched on the subject last October during the Tory Party Conference. As you would probably expect, the PM does seem a little confused on where he stands on the subject, perhaps because, like his predecessor Mr Blair, he so dearly wants to stand just about everywhere on just about everything, “straight kinda guy” that he is. As recounted by the Daily Mail, Mr Cameron “said he believed intruders gave up their rights when they entered another person’s home”. Many people will agree with this view, though I don’t. However, in the very same article we were told that “The Prime  Minister says homeowners could stab a burglar provided they are not unconscious” (I assume it would be the burglar that’s unconscious rather than the homeowner).

It seems to me that if the person you have just whacked with a cricket bat has no rights whatsoever (having crossed your threshold), you are perfectly entitled to stab them, even if they are unconscious. When you say someone has given up their rights, you surely mean that they have no rights? And if so, you are perfectly entitled to stab them as they lay at the foot of your stairs bleeding from a head wound, aren’t you? The PM, as usual, has at least two opinions on the subject. One for the “rank and file” of the Tory Party, and one for the slightly more sensible body of opinion that belongs to the general public.

But let’s say you agree with the concept that once you invade someone else’s property you have no rights at all and can be dealt with in whichever way the property-holder deems to be suitable. If you agree with that concept when applied to human beings, I can only imagine that you would also be in favour of it when applied to animals. Surely you wouldn’t be in favour of a crazy situation where an animal has rights where a human does not? No, you aren’t that daft.

So let’s talk about cats.

Someone once said to me that not every person with a cat is mad, but that just about every mad person has a cat. I know Hitler had a dog called “Blondi” and killed it shortly before killing himself. (Bizarrely, you can no longer leave virtual flowers for Blondi on the “findagrave” website as the feature was being continually misused. Don’t you worry ever so slightly about people that want to leave virtual flowers for a dog that belonged to one of the biggest nutters in history and has itself been dead for almost seven decades?) However, I can’t remember whether Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or Ronald Reagan had cats, so it’s entirely possibly that the whole thesis has more holes in it than an American school. Regardless, I hate cats, and I hate them with a passion. I hate them like I hate Manchester Utd, reality TV, management-speak and really small frying pans. They serve no purpose, possess not a shred of loyalty, and they shit wherever they want to, which so often seems to be on my property. For cuteness, a puppy beats a kitten ten times out of ten. A puppy will (hopefully) become a dog that will protect you, show you some loyalty, depend on you, give and receive affection from you. A kitten will become a cat that will eat the dinner you put down for it (why does cat food smell so much worse than dog food?) before taking itself off to kill some birds, cough-up a few furballs and shit in other people’s gardens. Hatred is not too strong a word.

Cats are offered protection under the law that no other animal enjoys. They cannot be trapped, injured or killed, as they are someone else’s pet. Well perhaps “someone else” should consider that their pet is not welcome on my property? A burglar is someone else’s father, husband or brother yet there appears to be an alarming number of people who think that it is absolutely fine to trap and injure them before eventually killing them following a prolonged session of torture. What sort of society values the well-being of animals above the well-being of humans?

There is, of course, the question of intent. A burglar knowingly comes into your property to steal your possessions, whilst a cat is not acting in a manner that it knows you would disapprove of when it invades your property and craps everywhere. True, but not much help to me when I’m scraping cat diarrhoea off the geraniums. And not much help to my young son when a summer afternoon playing in the garden is brought to a halt by the discovery of cat shit in the sand-pit. No help at all in fact.

People, nearly always cat owners, tell me “Get some deterrents, you can buy them in B&Q or order them over the internet”. So I have to spend money to keep your pet off my property? Tell you what, why don’t YOU spend the money? If my kid trespasses on your land and I suggest to you that you haven’t deterred him sufficiently well and that it is your problem and not mine I suspect you’d have something to say. Perhaps a burglar can use a similar defence at trial? (“No, M’Lud, there was definitely no “Burglars Keep Out” sign on the front door and the windows were incredibly easy to jemmy open. He was pretty much asking for his TV to be nicked: it should be him in the dock for incitement rather than poor old me for burglary”). You want me to turn my garden into a mish-mash of broken-up CDs on bits of string, chicken wire, plastic bottles half-full of water, orange peel and scarecrows because your “pet” wants to shit wherever it so desires? Are you serious?

Maybe, just maybe, a government that seems so keen on the idea of deceased burglars filling hospital mortuaries to bursting-point will support my proposal that cats should be treated like any other unwanted pests (greenfly, rats, Millwall fans) when they decide that my garden, my property, my very small corner of this green and pleasant land, is where they want to defecate. I should be free to deal with them in the same manner as I may soon be able to deal with an unwanted burglar, if Mr Cameron is to be taken at his word.

"And Tiddles disappears over deep midwicket for six"

“And Tiddles disappears over deep midwicket for six”

10 things I don’t want to see or hear in 2013 (but probably will)

“Gangnam Style” parodies

OK, people. It’s over. You can stop now. No more “hilarious” parodies of Psy’s hit are needed. We get the message. I don’t care if you are a Norfolk turkey farmer or one of a group of shop assistants, my advice is clear: it was funny for a bit, now it isn’t that funny anymore. It’s like dressing-up as Bananaman to go to the cricket; mildly amusing for a while but embarrassing for everyone if you decide to keep flogging the twitching carcass of the dead comedy horse. Please. Stop. I beg you.

Nude calendars

Barely a day seems to go by without a collection of flabby old women deciding to do a nude calendar in the “Calendar Girls” style. The film was released in 2003, which means it is almost ten years old. Isn’t it time these roly-polys got a new angle? What some people may have found quite amusing back then is now just bloody annoying. I want a Megan Fox or Vanessa Hudgens 2013 Calendar, not one featuring some big lump of an ASDA bakery worker from Barnsley. Thanks all the same.

Twitter arguments between people I’ve never heard of

Isn’t it shocking when you hear that whats-her-name who plays the part of Savannah in that horrible tacky programme has had a Twitter row with whats-her-name who plays Chelseigh in that other horrific chavfest? Doesn’t it just spoil your day? Isn’t it like when you found out that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford hated each other? Or does a fly farting three streets away have more of an effect on your life? It’s the fly for me.

The phrase “going forward”

If you ever saw the film “Casino” and remember what happened to Joe Pesci’s character at the end (think baseball bat) then that is how I believe people who utter this meaningless piece of management-speak should be dealt with. Every sentence in which it has ever been spoken can be improved by simply deleting the phrase. It serves no purpose except to allegedly bolster the credentials of the person speaking it. Avoid it in 2013 and your chances of seeing 2014 will improve, whilst your chances of being buried alive in a cornfield by my Mafia chums will recede.

“Super Saturday”

Three British gold medals in forty-six minutes on the evening of 4th August was a great effort of course. Yet I wouldn’t hand out too many awards for creativity from the media types who, I suspect, will keep harking back to “Super Saturday” for years to come. Couldn’t they think of something possessing a tad more originality? And anyway, isn’t “Super Saturday” already patented by Sky Sports when they have Stoke v Reading immediately followed by Blackburn v Charlton?

“KEEP CALM AND…”

OK. Enough!  I get it. You miss the good old days when people went to sleep not knowing whether tonight was the night when the Luftwaffe sent a bomb down their chimney and blew them to bits. Fair enough. You obviously weren’t there. How many more hilarious “KEEP CALM AND…” ideas can you think of? How about “KEEP CALM WHILE I SYSTEMATICALLY HUNT DOWN ALL THE PEOPLE WITH THESE STUPID BLOODY POSTERS”? Sound good?

Richard Littlejohn’s views on “political correctness gone mad”, “elf n safety” or “yuman rights”

I have heard them every bloody year for the last ten years, at least. The people that pay him seem not to notice that it’s the same old shit in a slightly amended form, year after year. A lawyer hired to represent Lance Armstrong and Jimmy Saville would be more convincing than Littlejohn’s “man of the people” act. He’s the kind of man who I would like to see smeared in bacon fat and locked in a room with a family of hungry, rabid wolverines. 2013 will be a wonderful year if that scenario unfolds, even in a dream.

Tired, unthinking football punditry

(1) “Technology” : People have become so convinced that football is just so incredibly important and necessary for the continued survival of the human race that it has to have “technology”. Otherwise some mistakes might get made. Boogaloo! Get over it all you whingers who keep going on about it because a ball going at 57mph was a centimetre over the line and from 20 yards away the referee didn’t realise. Grow up. The world will continue to spin on its axis.

(2) Marking at set-pieces/corners : Some ex-pro will always offer his opinion that “man-marking” should always be employed by teams rather than the new-fangled “zonal defence”. Except that the zonal system has been used by England in 1966, Arsenal when they went a whole season unbeaten, and recently by Guardiola’s Barcelona. “Space never scored a goal” he will wisely tell us. Then he’ll go on to say why you should always have a man on each post at corners. Er, isn’t that a kind of zonal system, marking areas rather than opposition players? Numpty.

E-petitions

Now, courtesy of our wonderfully democratic coalition, we can create online petitions and try to drum-up enough support so that one day they might be discussed in the House of Commons. And be rejected. Most of the people who create new petitions don’t seem to have the intelligence to think “Hmmm, I wonder if there’s already a petition about this”? And that is why there are about forty-seven thousand petitions imploring “Bring back hanging”, each with about three signatures. Other classics include “Stop our children being burning at school” (during English lessons perhaps?), “Discourage rags on heads in nativity plays”, “Let’s be more like Norway”, “Bring back Galaxy truffles in Celebrations”, “Build a fleet of Jedi X-Wings” (in response to an American e-petition that the US Government begin building a “Death Star”) and the downright weird “Release bears into Britain’s woodlands”. This is government, Camnam style.

Shiny pamphlets full of “marketing” visuals and waffle

I don’t see as many of these as I used to, but that doesn’t stop me hating them and never wanting to see one again. You probably know the kind of thing: a glossy booklet full of the kind of images that the people in a marketing department somewhere are convinced will persuade you that they are a great company to either work for or deal with. A lightbulb, two men shaking hands, a stopwatch, an egg-timer, a tape measure (tailored service you see?), a maze, an acorn. Oh and there’s always a sodding snowboarder in there for some reason as well. The pictures will be accompanied by vacuous New Labour-ish drivel about “partnerships” and “core values”, “common goals” and “synergies”, all in their vile Blairite glory, meaning everything and precisely nothing all at the same time.

Fetch the flamethrower.

"You see, if this was a heavyweight boxing match..."

“Going forward, you’re going to be a corpse”

More guns please, we’re stupid

There have been some strange, odd, bizarre and downright wicked statements made in the few days since the school shootings in Conneticut last week. The familiar bunch of right-wing and (allegedly) religious whackos have claimed that tolerance of homosexuality and/or the continued legality of abortion meant that God allowed that hideous crime to be committed while he just stood by and watched. Interesting stuff, though if I was God, and I was seriously pissed off about something, I’d tell people why I had allowed bad things to happen. You know, eliminate the middle man. To allow any two-bit huckster with a Bible and a freephone number to speak on my behalf would certainly not happen if I was God. Not on my watch. No, I’d take great delight in telling people why I was enraged. But not this God, apparently. No, he does it by proxy, via YouTube, and via any charlatan or con-man who wants to tell us why God is upset. For crying out loud, even if “He” does exist, if this is the way he decides to conduct his business then I’m not interested, because he’s clearly incompetent and delegating important work to people that I wouldn’t trust to sit the right way round on a toilet.

Staggeringly, in the wake of the shootings I’ve heard people suggest that it is the absence of guns from American schools that is the real problem. No, you didn’t misread that. They think it is the absence of guns from American schools that is causing a problem. Here’s a comment from a website I visited today (the comment was posted on Saturday 15th December, the day after the killings):

The solution to gun violence in schools is to train teachers in the safe and effective use of firearms.  We need to have numerous teachers in each school armed and ready.  When schools cease to become “gun free zones” then school gun carnage will stop. 

Yes, he’s being serious. Interestingly, he ended his post with the words “God save our Republic”, which is a kind of verbal tick that so many Americans seem to have. Why would God want to “save” a particular country? Actually, don’t answer that. Trying to calculate the reasoning of a being who allegedly allows six-year old children to be shot to death because abortion is legal is surely a fruitless task. We should also leave aside the utter illogicality of punishing abortion by allowing young children to be killed in school (these people are so dumb that they probably can’t see the contradiction there) because these people don’t “do” logic or anything even remotely close to it. They just pick their favourite hobby-horse and tell anyone who will listen that God’s punishment is being visited upon them because (a) they like gays (b) they allow abortion (c) they don’t go to church (d) the President is a socialist (e) Kansas City Chiefs are having a bad season, etc etc. There are numerous phrases to describe this kind of thinking, but “fairy story bollocks” is my favourite.

But let’s say that American schoolteachers get nicely “tooled-up” some time soon. Then what? Well, I won’t make a prediction, but in my old school the body count would have gone through the roof if the teachers had been armed. I’ll mention no names, but there would be a number of them about whom I would have been seriously worried had they had access to a firearm.

The RE (Religious Education) teacher was a violent sadist with just a wooden ruler in his hand, so what he would have been like with an assault rifle I have no idea. Not nice, I’d guess. Perhaps “Double Geography” with a Northern Irish borderline psycho, who supported Manchester United and who punched you when he felt like it, would have been more interesting if we’d known that he had a pristine Uzi in the top drawer of his desk. Perhaps I would have taken more time to commit to memory the rock formations of the Brecon Beacons, but there again he may well have shot me dead when he noticed me taking bets on who was going to win the Cup Final. A nice English Literature lesson with Mr Croft could easily have been spoiled by the sound of Dwyer’s brain splattering against the wall as a result of his failure to give Banquo’s death scene his full attention. Mr Phillips may well have got better results out of the cricket team if he’d threatened to kneecap anyone who scored a “duck”, but I doubt it.

Then, of course, we would have had situations where the pupils got hold of the teacher’s weapon of choice. No matter how much Mr Taylor begged for his life, Bishop would eventually have shot him, even if he had been promised an “A” in every French test for the rest of his time at the school. He hated him so much. And at the end of a four day siege, Mr Burnett would have ended up cold and lifeless on the chemistry lab floor, pumped full of .22 calibre slugs, but only after Spicer had made him do a “down-in-one” on a pint of hydrochloric acid. It would have been carnage.

So, just one question, America: the day a teacher goes loopy and shoots an entire third-grade class with his government-issue submachine gun, what then?

Kalashnikovs for kids, just like in Afghanistan?

"... and every school will have its very own intercontinental ballistic missile. Marvellous"

“… and every school will have its very own intercontinental ballistic missile. Great idea.”

Time to wake up, America?

The answer will, of course, be “No”. America will hit the “snooze” button, roll over and go back to sleep. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown. Yeah, whatever.

The latest mass killing in Conneticut will bring with it the usual impassioned speeches. Everyone will say that this should be the last time, this is the line in the sand, this is the watershed moment. It won’t be. Some time soon there will be another mass shooting, probably in another rather quiet American suburb where such a thing, so its inhabitants thought, could never happen. Not here. But it will.

Americans appear (to this outsider) obsessed by their “right” to defend themselves with a gun. They appear unable to contemplate the fact that constitutions are written by people, for people, for the general good of the people and should quite rightly be amended when situations change. Laws and constitutions should never be written in stone, impervious to change, unable to be moulded for the greater good of everyone within that society. Why can’t Americans seem to understand this? In the UK we had Hungerford and Dunblane. Steps were taken, controls were brought in. We took action. Maybe similar events were prevented, we’ll never know. Similar events may occur in the future, we can’t be certain that they won’t. But the point is that we reflected on those two horrendous episodes, wondered if there were lessons to be learnt, and did something. What are Americans doing? Standing around not wanting to be accused of being” anti-American” if they voice the opinion that maybe something should change? If so, that’s pathetic.

Remember Charlton Heston, the now deceased former actor and one-time president of the National Rifle Association? Remember his speech where he told the US Government that they could only take his guns away from his “cold, dead hands”? (I have no idea whether they took him up on his offer when he popped his clogs. I hope they did). It summed-up a certain attitude to rights in general. That if you have a right to do something, you should. Without question. And to not do so is somehow un-American. To fail to own a gun merely gives “them” (the government, the police, the army) an advantage over the citizens of the nation. When even George Bush Senior resigns from your organisation because he thinks it’s getting a bit carried away with itself (Bush resigned from the NRA in 1995) then it really is time to stop and think:

“Guys, even George Bush thinks we’re a bit nuts”.

American gun ownership levels are quite staggering. There are 89 guns per 100 people, far and away the highest figure for any country on Earth. Even Yemen, that lawless hell-hole on the Arabian peninsula, has ownership levels barely half of that of the USA. In Japan, a modern and developed 21st century society with many of the social problems that go with that, gun ownership is less than 1 per 100 people. Most years, total Japanese gun murders are in double-figures. In the USA in 2008, there were 12,000. Or four World Trade Centres, if you prefer.

What is this peculiar attachment to the notion of blowing away “fellow Americans”? The Second Amendment owes much of itself to the 1689 English Bill of Rights which allowed for the personal right to bear arms. But that was over three hundred years ago. Things were different back then. The militias of the revolutionary era should be consigned to history. The weapons available to people back then were vastly inferior to the weapons available now. No-one these days goes on a rampage with single-shot muskets, they tend to go with automatic or semi-automatic weapons. We have created armies and police forces to which we have ceded the “monopoly on violence” (as Max Weber termed it). We can’t even carry a knife around with us without pretty good reason to be doing so, and quite rightly too. I don’t want the “right” to own a weapon that can so effectively and efficiently terminate someone else’s existence. And I don’t want other people claiming that same right for themselves either.

People will say that the “genie is out of the bottle” or some such other nonsense. That taking steps towards greater gun control at this stage is to embark on a virtually impossible task. I hope these aren’t the same people who whoop and cheer and applaud every time any two-bit politician calls the USA “the greatest country in the world” or “somewhere where anything is possible”. “Anything” obviously doesn’t cover giving schoolchildren a greater chance of coming home to Mum and Dad when school’s finished for the day. Emotional? Yes. And if kids being shot in their classrooms by lunatics doesn’t stir the emotions, then check your hands.

Like Mr Heston’s, they’re cold and dead.

"Free, to shoot who I want, any old time"

“Free, to shoot who I want, any old time”

Skyfall? Skyfail.

The hype said, among other things, that “Skyfall” was quite possibly the best James Bond film ever. While I must admit to not being a James Bond aficionado, I’ve seen all the films (except “Quantum of Solace”) and did once read one of the original Ian Fleming books (“From Russia With Love”). Over the years there have been some pretty average films in the Bond franchise, with “Never Say Never Again” and “A View to a Kill” springing to mind, though I really liked “Diamonds Are Forever” (or, perhaps more accurately, I really liked Jill St John), and “The Spy Who Loved Me” was a good one too.

Anyway, most Bond films are pretty decent and certainly well above average when compared to some of the dreadful nonsense that gets wheeled-out under the banner of “entertainment” these days, and I don’t just mean the daily brain rot of celebrities dancing, or eating maggots, or dancing whilst eating maggots, or eating maggots whilst finding the cure for AIDS, or whatever is the latest patronising, done-to-death piece of utter crap on our screens parading as “new”. Most Bond films are pretty decent, but “Skyfall” is, well, not.

There are of course worse things than spending a Friday evening in a multiplex seat that cost £9 and eating a few sweets that cost the national debt of Uganda whilst watching morons constantly twiddle in the dark with their life-support machines, or “mobile phones” as I call them. But that isn’t the point. The point is that anyone who regards this film as anything other than one of the worst James Bond films ever should not be allowed to roam the streets at night, or even in the daytime come to think of it. When they occasionally looked up from their Nokia or Samsung screens, what did these people see that I didn’t? Or did they just fall for the modern syndrome of proclaiming anything new as possibly the best of its type? Just as each Premier League season is always “the best ever”, at least according to the Sky Sports Brainwashing Department, does being the latest film of the Bond franchise mean automatic bestowal of the ultimate accolade? It certainly shouldn’t in this case.

OK, enough prattle. Here’s why (in no particular order) “Skyfall” is disappointing, mediocre, and has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese that’s been used by the SAS for target practice:

(1) Some terrible cliches

We start with a chase around a bazaar/souk. Yes, I know you’ve seen it before. A hundred times.

Shockingly, there’s a scene where there’s a fight on a train roof. Ever seen one of those before, except in every bloody “action” film you’ve ever watched? And they occasionally have to duck under bridges. Amazing, eh? The creative brains must have been up really early thinking that one out. Dreadful.

Then there’s a comment from Bond that the new “Q” (who appears to be perhaps in his mid-twenties) “still has spots”. A familiar old cliche when one character wants to highlight another character’s youth and inexperience, perhaps, but completely nonsensical when “Q” actually appears to have the kind of flawless skin that most supermodels would die for. Are Bond’s eyes starting to go?

After the death of “M” she leaves Bond a present. Don’t bother opening the box James, everyone in the audience already knows that it’s the porcelain bulldog she kept on her desk. The one you hate. Ho, bloody ho. You can see it coming a mile away. What’s the point of such predictable, sentimental rubbish?

(2) The rehab phase

After being blasted off a train roof and into a river, he somehow survives. OK, fair enough, though we never find out how. It seems like a mystery woman aids his recovery, which is helped by not shaving (straight out of the opening chapter of the Big Book of Film Cliches) and playing drinking games with the locals (where his steady hand is in evidence, though that inexplicably deserts him when he gets back to London). He’s a washed-up, psychologically messed-up agent with a “haunted” look and loads of “demons”. Wake me up when the bad guy appears, will you?

(3) He lost his parents when he was young

That’s terrible. Shall I go and tie a pink teddy bear to the gates of the Skyfall estate? Out goes “sexism” and in comes the touchy-feely stuff of the new 21st Century Bond. Clunk, clunk, clunk…is that a plotline I can hear? He’s so touchy-feely these days that he can spot a victim of the Asian child sex industry just by sharing a brief drink with her at a bar (though of course he still shags her anyway). Oh how I wish his parents had lived and spared us all this crap. I don’t want all this backstory stuff in a James Bond film. At the risk of upsetting females who may read this, Bond is being feminised in a way that is completely unnecessary and quite nauseating. And the whole thing is nicked from Batman.

(4) Mr Silva (The Bad Guy)

Apparently a former MI6 agent. Really? Is MI6 in the business of employing foreigners as agents? Perhaps they are, I don’t really know. Played by Javier Bardem, the nasty man starts off promisingly then just peters out into making all the daft mistakes that every “baddie” has ever made in any bog standard action film.

“What’s that? You want me to follow you to your deserted childhood home in a secluded part of the Highlands? Oh, OK then.”

“You want my henchmen to all be a bit thick? You got it.”

“You want me to turn my back towards the door in the old church where the finale will take place? No problem.”

He is out for revenge on “M” because she gave him up to the Chinese and they tortured him so badly that he took a cyanide pill that didn’t quite kill him, but badly disfigured him. At that point, wouldn’t a trained MI6 agent think of other ways to kill himself? “Ah well, the cyanide failed. More torture and years of misery for me” really doesn’t ring true.

(5) “M”

“M” : a woman. I think we got over that bombshell a few years ago.

“M” was played by Judi Dench, who seems to be on a par with Princess Diana or Mother Teresa when it comes to being allowed to criticise her.

“M” was the Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, meaning that the words “turn off that bloody torch” might have passed her lips when her and Kincade were fumbling about on the moors with a revenge-obsessed psychopathic killer in pursuit. But it never occurred to her. Seems like the torch was a hell of a lot brighter than “M”. Perhaps it should be in the next film?

“M” told Eve to “take the shot” in the top of the train scene when the life of one of her agents depended on it and that agent was already tangling with the bad guy. Not great at playing the percentages, was she? Then, at the end, when she had the chance to kill the bad guy (and herself) she turned it down. Not so ruthless when it came to saving her own skin, was she?

“M” passed Bond as fit for duty despite him failing all the tests required to reinstate his “licence to kill”. Yet we are supposed to have sympathy for her when a politician questions her competence at a public enquiry into the theft of the hard drive and subsequent deaths of a number of agents. Not likely.

Seems to me that “M” would struggle if placed in charge of a school tuckshop. Even if Billy Bunter was a regular customer. How are we supposed to have sympathy for this incompetent old bird?

(6) Where were Hannibal, Murdock, Face and BA ?

The final act of the film is basically a rehash of any “A Team” script you could name. Despite being a top agent, Bond has to resort to making booby traps out of old washing-up bottles and double-sided stickytape (a slight exaggeration I admit). Yes, I know it’s “escapism” but you can justify all sorts of nonsense in films if you just say “Oh, it’s escapism”. You could abandon decent scripwriters and editors and all sorts of other expensive people if you just shouted “escapism” any time that someone spotted a hole in the plot big enough to navigate the Titanic through.

They missed a trick here. If they’d just got Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to come crashing into the scene in a reprise of “Home Alone” (as Bond was, if you discount rubbish old “M” and Albert Finney’s unconvincing octogenarian Scotsman) then at least we would have all got a laugh for our money. A tin of paint bouncing off Pesci’s bonce wouldn’t have made the film any more ridiculous.

As it was, the chocolate brazils were lovely, but watch the film again?

I’d rather throw myself off a moving train.

“At least in here there’s no chance of watching Skyfall again”

 

CATPISS (Campaign Against Thick, Pig Ignorant Shop Staff)

I’m not that interested in striking-up conversations with the people who serve me in shops, pubs, restaurants etc. That’s not to say that I never do, but on balance it’s not really my thing. Maybe it’s what the Americans call “British reserve”, but I doubt it. I’m just not that interested in what the bloke behind the bar is doing on his day off tomorrow, unless he’s planning to go mental with an assortment of automatic weapons down at the local shopping centre. That would definitely get my attention and I’d probably enquire as to whether he was planning his spree in the morning or afternoon. Just out of interest. Generally speaking, though, I like to stick to the transaction at hand and pretty much leave it at that. A small exchange of the most basic pleasantries and I’m on my way. I bought a bag of crisps from you, that’s all. I don’t want to know about what you did in your “gap year”. Trust me on that.

In truth though, the talkative, slightly over-enthusiastic shop assistant/barman/waitress isn’t that common a species, at least in my experience. But they do have a much more common relation, in the same way that the termite has the cockroach in his family tree. I refer, of course, to the rude, arrogant, pig ignorant, dumb, brain-dead husks that inhabit so many of our retail establishments, allegedly in order to “assist” customers. Porcus stultus, to give them their Latin name. They give you the impression that it’s you who is receiving the huge favour from them, simply by way of their mere presence. They speak, if they speak at all, only to their work colleagues. “Thank you”, “Thanks”, “Hello”, “Goodbye” or “Cheers” aren’t in the lexicon. You’ve already distracted them from their conversation with their work colleague about last night’s X Factor, don’t push your luck by expecting any kind of acknowledgment.

I don’t want or expect, as I hope I’ve made clear, anything more than some basics. Perhaps “Hello” to start, followed by “£8.45 please”, then maybe “Thanks” when I hand over the cash and perhaps another “Thanks” when they give me my change. A few words, perhaps in something quite closely-related to English, is all I want. If I’m asking for the world, I apologise. Oh, and some eye contact is also generally regarded as both socially acceptable and desirable in Western culture. That’s pretty much all I want.

Recently, at a local railway station, I bought a newspaper over the counter of the coffee bar and the entire transaction was conducted in silence, except for my own “Thanks” as I handed over the money. Only when I walked away from the counter did it hit me that the assistant hadn’t uttered a single word. How rude is that? A similar experience took place when I purchased some wine at a local convenience store, though I think on that occasion the cost of the wine may have been whispered in my general direction, but it was very difficult to tell. Perhaps even more annoying is the conversation that is going on behind the counter as you approach, which under no circumstances can be suspended for ten seconds whilst a customer is served. Having said that, if you have the intellectual capacity of a goldfish, halting a conversation for that period of time might mean that you’ll forget what you were talking about. Which would be disastrous, of course.

OK, so having identified the problem, what is the solution? Well, it’s just two words. And they are “walk” and “away”. Yep. Walk away.

Now, for maximum annoyance to be felt by the knobhead behind the counter, this has to be timed accurately. The precise time is, I reckon, just after the item has been scanned, or an amount entered into the till, especially if (in a pub) the pint has already been poured. This is the perfect time to retaliate, to act on that feeling of outrage bubbling-up inside, to silently scream “I am not a number, I am a customer who is taking their business elsewhere because you are a rude, arrogant twat”. And walk away. They will hate it, especially if they haven’t been trained on what to do when this happens. They probably have, but they’ve forgotten, because they were texting when they were being shown. So tough shit, treat me like dirt and I’ll respond in kind. Quid pro quo. If they challenge you regarding your behaviour, perhaps even pursue you after you’ve walked out of the door, then give them some of their own medicine. Say nothing and stare blankly at them. They’ll almost certainly think you’re nuts, and will decide to leave well alone before hurrying back to a riveting conversation about “EastEnders” or some similarly uplifting programme.

If you are with me on this, please consider joining CATPISS. Membership is free but is restricted only to those who are prepared to “walk away” from any establishment which treats them like shit. You owe it to yourself.

And, perhaps more importantly, you certainly owe it to them.

“I just want to pay for this tin of beans. Serve me, then resume your discussion on the English Civil War. Do it now”.

Just another day in the Co-Op

The store that claims it’s “good with food”,

In which I’ve queued and queued and queued,

And got in line, prepared to wait,

All too aware of likely fate,

Resisted the urge, the great temptation,

To ask, “Are your staff just for decoration”?

Sandra (the cashier) is working today,

But her colleagues, it seems, well…who can say?

Just one till is “on”, so I resign to stand,

With some of the strangest folk in the land,

Weasel-like man with baseball hat,

On the phone in constant chat,

Unaware, (he’s not that bright),

That I don’t want to know what he did last night,

Then a man who stinks of lager and wee,

Clutches a Snickers and grins at me,

As if he is a long-lost friend,

Not drunk and halfway round the bend,

A dotty old girl, in sheepskin coat,

From inside pocket produces a note,

I see “20 Bensons” written down,

She squints, then it becomes a frown,

“I can’t read that” she croaks at me,

“You know, next month I’m ninety-three”

I start to get that familiar feeling,

Like the blood in my veins has begun congealing,

“Cigarettes”, I shout into her ear,

“I’m sorry, but I’m a bit deaf, dear”

Then Baseball Hat behind me snaps,

And throws his pack of rustic baps,

Across the shop, like a bullet from a gun,

And smashes a bottle of finest Blue Nun,

Then all at once the boss is near,

From where he’s come I’ve no idea,

Persuaded, it seems, by breaking glass,

To interrupt lunch, get off his arse,

“You’ll pay for that, or I’ll phone the law”,

But Baseball Hat sprints out the door,

The manager, fat and red of face,

Is clearly in no shape to chase,

“Sandra, be a love, fetch a bucket and mop,

I’m off to the office to call the cops”,

So Sandra does as she is told,

And puts her customers back on “hold”,

The queue of four is down to three,

Drunk man, deaf woman, and little old me,

I close my eyes and count to ten,

And swear I’ll not come here again.