The Gun Show

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“Daddy can I have a shot of the guns please?”

“No dear we’ll take you to a firing range, it’ll be safer”

“Okay but only if I can play with a sub-machine gun”

“Of course sweetie, it is your ninth birthday after all!”

This is not the first, and sadly it won’t be the last blog on our idiot cousins and their gun fetishes. Stick your Second Amendment up your arse and take a good look at yourself America because the day a child is allowed to “play” with a semi automatic weapon, shoot her trainer in the head and it not be a wake up call is the day your excuses died.

Charles Vacca was showing the nine-year-old how to fire the weapon when she lost control of the weapon and accidentally shot him at a place called “Bullets and Burgers” in  Arizona – a lovely family friendly name I’m sure you would agree. This venue allows “children aged eight and older can shoot a weapon if they are accompanied by a parent and an instructor” – tell me what’s wrong with a nice game of ten pin bowling or a walk in the park? Of course the girl could have a weapon in pink if she wanted because there are lots of pro-gun female groups around now that have “fashion” versions of hand guns and rifles. Great idea guys; the colour was always he issue wasn’t it.

You struggle to have sympathy with anyone in this story because they are all at fault in their own way. The parents should not have taken her there in the first place – why teach a child to use the type of weapon that is associated with so many mass shooting across America each year? The range and trainer were culpable because they gave a child a powerful gun that she was never going to cope with. The child had obviously been brought up by a gun loving family so perhaps there is some sympathy but in the end she wanted to do it so the consequences lie with her too. While I’m sure the mental scarring will be terrible I struggle to really feel for her in this situation.

WHen will the US finally realise that guns are central to so many issues in their country? Look at Ferguson, Missouri – take away the guns and Michael Brown may not have been shot; Recent gang violence in Chicago would not have been as bad; the constant stories of mass shootings in schools, colleges and on the street would disappear. Is it just me that can see this? Why is the NRA – a small group of people in relation to the population of the United States – so powerful and have so many Republicans under its thumb? It genuinely baffles me. Obama has tried to do something about the problem but as always those on the right screaming about the right to bear arms shout him and his Democrats in the two houses down.

The other thing to point out is that it’s not just the guns that are the problem here, it’s the people and environment people grow up in. Many countries across the globe have the right to own and carry guns but none have the death rates or issues America does. It’s in in-built to their psyches, pre-programmed into many as if a genetic code clicks in them as the trigger is pulled. Yes we all grew up playing games with toy guns – Nerf guns are hugely popular in the UK – but if you consider that we have over 2 million legally owned firearms in the UK we don’t have shootings every other week. Even if we take into consideration all the illegal guns on the streets of the UK, usually linked with gang violence, drugs or organised crime that may be up to another million weapons shootings are few and far between in this country.

If you hold a weapon up as a right, as Americans do, you automatically make it more important than it is. It should be a tool not an accessory. As long as there are a lack of background checks, few restrictions on those with serious mental illness owning a weapon, and a two hundred and fifty year old bit of paper being held up as a template for modern-day USA then we’ll continue to see this idiocy and tragedy on our news.

JD

A Plague on both your houses

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I only watched a bit of the referendum debate tonight but I’m really fed up of the whole thing now – can we just fast forward to Sept 19th and get on with our lives?

The reason I say this is that Mr Salmond said he didn’t think that the debate had become divisive or damaging and he’s wrong. He was right that it has engaged the country in talking about the most important issues, but to not see the irreparable split in our nation is very short-sighted.

There are only just over five million of us in Scotland, we’re a small country that has survived on being a collective as part of the UK – now we’re turning on each other. If you don’t believe me take a look on any thread from either side and you’ll see the trolls at work shouting and stomping their feet. Newspaper comments are the same, for me this is not something we’ll all just put aside – I wish it was, but as things get closer to the date I’m seeing the darker side of some people online.

Also the vandalism I’ve personally seen to “No Thanks” billboards, signs etc is unbelievable. I’ve honestly yet to see a “Yes”one damaged although I am aware it has happened. I’m not just pointing this out because I’m a no voter, but there seems to be a certain pressure put upon those voting against as our “Scottishness” is being questioned. Having spoken to a lot of people about it there are many getting annoyed with the whole thing and others who are annoyed that to want to stay in the UK is seen as unadventurous or unpatriotic.

I know that this is a subject that many are passionate about – myself included – but it’s not as if we’re going to cordon off Glasgow if it’s a no vote and herd all the Yes voters in (although it is a good idea…) we will still have to live, work and speak to those on the opposite side and there are some things said that can’t be taken back.

More than anything else this is the thing that worries me most about the 18th of September, not if it will be a Yes or No, but if we will all still be that gang north of the border that have achieved so much together.

JD

Ice Bucket Challenge – A Rant

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Don’t worry this is not a tirade against the challenge as I did it myself this morning, instead it’s against those who have hijacked it, derided it and misunderstood it – three things it should be simple to avoid.

First the Hijackers – Macmillan Cancer. This a charity I will always donate to as I am more than aware of the amazing work that they do for people across the UK, but this is not their challenge. The Ice Bucket Challenge is for ALS in the US or as we know it MND, Motor Neurone Disease. This horrible and debilitating illness attacks the nerves in the brain and the spinal cord and gradually stops the messages from travelling through the body to muscles meaning the inability to move limbs occurs and the muscles waste away. It is a slow and nasty way to die. The idea of the Ice bucket is that for a moment it gives you and I the same sensation of someone with developed MND has as our muscles loose feeling and we feel an overall numbness.

Macmillian are now the top hit on Google when you type in Ice Challenge and that’s wrong because it should be MNDA or MNDS (Association or Scotland) with the donation info of “TEXT ICED14 £5 to 70070” instead the Cancer charity appear with their own advert. MND are a much smaller charity, but a charity that is doing great work to find a medical breakthrough for those with the disease. Over the last few weeks Macmillan have raised over a quarter of a million pounds from this social media phenomenon and it’s unfair as they are bigger and there is the obvious fact that more people suffer from or knows someone with Cancer. As a former cancer patient myself and a supporter of a few different cancer charities I cannot condone what Macmillan are doing. This smaller group need the funds AND the spotlight as they can’t do the big events.

Second – The Haters (as I believe the kids put it). If you don’t want to do it, don’t. It’s that simple. For me if anything gets people to put their hands in their pockets and give to someone less fortunate than themselves then it can only be a positive thing. “Oh it’s wasting water, think of Africa and those without” fine if you feel that way then make a donation to Wateraid or one of the amazing charities doing work out in countries across Africa.

Finally those who have misunderstood it. As I’ve explained there is a reason behind it and Charlie Sheen and some others thought it was just about money – it’s not. Also those who are posing and waffling on in their videos, can you please get a grip and remember it’s not about you, it’s for charity.

So if you do the challenge text ICED14 £1/2/3/5/10 (choose your donation amount) to 70070.

If you need another reason to donate then watch this video.

JD

Richard Dawkins the Atheist Troll

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The Atheist Troll has returned to our lives with more words of fucked up wisdom.

When asked on Twitter:

“I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma,” by @InYourFaceNYer

The wise one replied “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Seriously Dick? I can call you Dick? Well you’ll always be a Dick to me. To say it would be immoral to have a child with Downs Syndrome is not only rude but hugely disrespectful of those families who chose to have those children and care for them as they would any other child. Frankly if my child spouted half the shit you do I would probably wish I’d aborted you when I had the chance. But this is not a one off for Dick because he has history in saying stupid things for a man so supposedly clever.

His other words of wisdom have been on different topics such as:

“Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knife point is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”

And in the same vein – “Mild paedophilia is bad. Violent paedophilia is worse.”

There was the classic “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

And how can we forget his favourite Mantra: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

Now none of these comments were made to further any real discussion, all they are doing is trolling people who have strongly held beliefs on the other side of the subject. He is no better than those pathetic thirteen year olds who comment on YouTube videos just to get a rise out of the other posters. The thing is within each post there is a sensible point disguised but he deliberately chooses to wind people up as he sits upon his ivory tower looking down his nose at us peasants. Ironically for an Atheist he has a terrible Messiah complex.

He is a man of Science, but his approach on philosophy is cack-handed at best. While it is not generally accepted that “some rapes are worse than others” we understand his point, but he misses the one most important thing in his comment – something he accuses religion of doing – and that’s the influence of the individual in the experience. I am not a religious man, I don’t believe in any higher power other than nature and my fellow humans, but I understand that we are all individuals and our lives will be affected by experiences, our genetics and our upbringing. Dawkins has argued that religion bands people together in unlikely generalisations, but his comments do exactly that. How do you know that A is worse than B if you have not experienced it yourself? How can he claim that bringing up a child with Down Syndrome is Immoral if he doesn’t have the proof. Surely an empiric man like himself would have to have first hand experience of all of these things.

With his constant attacks on those with Faith I am starting to think he doth protest too much. Regardless of our own personal beliefs we shouldn’t deny others the right to have theirs as long as no-one is getting hurt in the process. His attack on the Catholic church and missionaries for telling thousands of people in Sub-Saharan Africa that using a condom can give you AIDS was the right call, so he’s not always wrong – but to lambaste people who have a genuine connection to their spirituality and getting on with their lives in a peaceful and positive way is just churlish.

He is allowed an opinion the same as you or I – and like us he is sometimes right and sometimes wrong – but he is a public figure and needs to be aware of the power of his words. For me he is slowly losing the plot in public and on Twitter. Who is next on his ironic crusade? The disabled? Those who use food banks? Cancer Patients? Banjo players? If he is aiming to come across as a rambling old fool only interested in poking the hornet’s nest every month then congratulations Dicky you’re doing a great job.

Why don’t you just fuck off back to the bridge you crawled out from under?

JD

Black and White

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A young unarmed black man is shot by police – the area erupts in riots, protests and looting. Sound familiar?

It’s too familiar a story really – it was Mark Duggan from London in 2011 when the UK had its share of civil unrest, but now we see Ferguson in Missouri facing the latest round of finger-pointing and demonstrations. The story has been muddied over the last few day but the basics are as follows:

Michael Brown is accused of trying to hold up a convenience store, the owner dials 911 and a police cruiser discovers Brown walking up the middle of the street. But here’s the kicker – he wasn’t picked out because of the 911 call, instead he was shot at for jaywalking. He is shot by several bullets – two in head and at least a further four in his body. Since then there have been protests by the locals and a heavy-handed response from the police including another death by shooting and use of tear gas.

Is it deserved? No is the simple answer. In a town of around 21,000 in population two-thirds are black yet there are only five black police officers. Why is this relevant? Because in stop and search incidents you are nine or ten times more likely to be stopped if you are black. Ironically in terms of statistics you are more likely to find drugs or illegal fire arms on a white person. How did the Missouri Governor Jay Nixon respond to the events – called a curfew between Midnight and 5am. Great work their Governor.

Twenty two years ago the world watched the videotape of Rodney King being beaten by police, this sparked huge riots across Los Angeles – yet again no lessons have been learned from history. There is still an inherent racism across the US and beyond. For some reason the colour of your skin puts you in some invisible hierarchy for some people. Our institutions of law particularly attract those who see this division by race and abuse it with the power they have. The use of camouflage, riot gear, army resources and weapons on the street is not just overkill it is inciting violence on the streets. The American Government has given local law enforcement agencies billions of dollars to buy military grade weapons over the last few years – tanks and anti-landmine vehicles to patrol small communities.

We are constantly told about how young black males are struggling in schools in the inner city areas of London, Manchester and Birmingham – but it’s no surprise if you have already been marked as a nuisance in your community why would you work hard to improve when all certain members of the police and other agencies want to do it put you down “in your place”. We know from UK stats that the Stop and Search problem here is the same as the US suffers from – mostly likely to be stopped are young black males. Why? What is it that the police seem to know that we don’t? For some it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and those young lads will fall into crime because they are seen as criminals already so why not get the advantages of the label.

And I’m more than aware that it isn’t all of the Police either here or in America, but there are enough people to make it an issue. If a young black man shows he is unarmed and shouts “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” then perhaps the police need to take a hell of a good look at themselves, their policies and their outright racism. These seven words echo through the United States as year after year innocent people are killed for no apparent reason – a large proportion black.

Why in the 21st Century are we still treating the Black community as second or third class citizens? Why are they the target of law institutions? Until we encourage and promote young black men into the police, politics, local school boards, community groups then the lack of representation will continue this spiral of violence and racism. But they are unlikely to take up these invitations if they are only token gestures – we need to show them on the street that everyone is equal and treated in the same way – that puts the ball firmly in the police’s court to ensure that the law truly is colour-blind.

Ferguson is a stark reminder that electing Barack Obama as President of the United States of America didn’t “cure” racism as some idiots said it would, it was only the next step on a very long road for the country. There are lots of great African-Americans in public service but they need to be more prominent to show the young the role models they need. That goes for all nationalities in all countries – the only way you defeat racism is by removing the ignorance and fear of the prejudiced minority.

JD

 

Why I will be saying No Thanks

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It’s less than a month to the Scottish Independence Referendum and it’s no surprise to find out that I’ll be voting no. Facebook, Twitter and the traditional media are full of opinions, alleged facts (on both sides) and rhetoric but the problem is that too many people are still undecided or even worse not going to vote. You have to vote on this one folks it is important that the whole country has their say – the last thing I want is for either side to win with a really low turnout because that would undermine the whole thing.

Rather than quote facts I thought I’d lay out my own personal thoughts. I’ve seen quite a few people online say they are on the fence and I don’t like writing essays on Facebook, so this is my tuppence-worth for you to read or ignore.

Scotland: We are already a country. We have the power, with our own parliament, to make decisions for ourselves. Also we have been promised more powers even if we vote No. Think about that – we already have the power to do things in this country but each government makes their budgeting decisions. Makes you wonder about food banks and poverty when there is the potential to do more about it from Holyrood. Are we really not going to be confused for Irish abroad or asked the question “Where in England are you from” just because we become independent? Of course not – in fact our standing would diminish as we were no longer one of the big hitters in the world.

Money: Regardless of the oil, Scotland is not built for the long-term. If you consider where we were fifty years ago before it appeared or fifty years in the future when it will possibly be too expensive to extract we have to see the country for what it is. We’re not rich as a nation and need to be careful about the amount we rely on that oil money to keep us afloat. Living in Aberdeen I know first hand that we don’t get the benefit of being “Europe’s oil capital” just ask all those who live in poverty and have to use food banks in the Granite City. We have to be more realistic and realise that 60 million people pooling their resources is always going to trump five million. We rely on each other and that’s a good thing. Sometimes we take more than we pay in, sometimes we pay more in that’s the idea of a centralised kitty – a shared set of finances.

Alex Salmond: I am not a fan, but I’m not naive enough to vote no just because of him or his sidekick Sturgeon. Whatever the result of the Referendum the SNP will probably fade into the background at the next Holyrood elections so it’s not an issue. My issue with Salmond and the SNP is the way this whole referendum has been dealt with. Using public money to fund legal advice and to promote one view is wrong. Also there was no discussion about the type of Scotland we all wanted before the White Paper was foisted upon us. I strongly believe if we’d had a real national discussion about what a future Scotland could be the Yes vote would have romped home, instead we have so few answers and no real vision that it makes no sense to vote for the unknown.

Politics: Here’s an interesting one for you. The vote in Westminster on whether we should be involved militarily in Syria taken last August was defeated, because of the Scottish MPs votes – take those out and the UK would have been in another war. This to me shows the influence of the Scottish (and other Celtic nations) on the UK as a whole. We are left leaning as a country – in fact all the talk of us not getting the Government we vote for, you’ll find those in the Highlands and Islands who consistently return Lib Dem MPs have got the Government they voted for. The mix of opinions and parties makes the UK quite unique and that is a great thing.

Uncertainty: The No campaign’s “Project Fear” has done itself more harm than good in my opinion because it has left the door open to Yes campaigners to say that we are scared of change. That’s just not the case for me. Because we don’t have all the answers from the SNP about what happens next because everything has to be negotiated and neither side will get everything their own way this leads to real uncertainty about Scotland’s future. “Won’t it be worth it in the long run?” Well there’s no evidence to say it will be. I’m going to have to work for the next thirty or so years and I don’t want the next decade or two of that to be volatile and uncertain – I’ve a mortgage to pay and kids to look after; I’m not willing to take the risk. The currency issue alone is a long-term problem and one  don’t want to experience.

Curriculum for Excellence: I point anyone who argues we can make decisions better ourselves to take a good long look at the mess of CfE in Education. If that is how the SNP led Scottish Government believe things should be run it’s time to really worry. Such a mess has been made by those at the top it’s only been saved (so far) by the amazing hard-working teachers in the classrooms to get the kids through. Do we really want this cack-handed approach in all the other streams of government? Pensions, Military, Social Security etc.

Central Belt Bias: We all know it exists, so would it be the same or worse under independence? Just look how quickly things were moved for the Commonwealth games in Glasgow or the new Forth Road Bridge for Edinburgh compared to the Aberdeen Bypass. Look at the funding issues those north of Stirling have had in local councils. We wouldn’t benefit half as much as is made out up here as those in the two biggest cities would. There’s as much logic to say that Aberdeen should be independent of the Rest of Scotland because of the oil – ridiculous? Not really.

Me: I’m Scottish and while I like Scotland there is more to the world than our own little corner. I’m British, European and a member of a family that stretches across the globe. I don’t want to put up barriers and layers of bureaucracy, I don’t want to become a small insular country, I don’t care for the Nationalistic drum-banging, saltire-waving, caricature some people have of us. We’re citizens of the world and that’s the way I like it. I don’t need a newly defined border to tell me who I am or the country I live in; I don’t want to be smaller and heard less on the most important matters globally – I like the fact we have a seat at all the important tables internationally, we won’t get that if Independent; I want us to help others around the world and reach out to them – independence would close more doors in this area and it’s not really been discussed.

Another consideration for all the Yes voters is – Who will you blame when things go wrong or against your views? At he moment it’s easy to point at London or the Tories or the Coalition or Cameron or Westminster or UKIP – but in an Independent Scotland the buck really does stop here. For too long we’ve been able to shrug off the problems we’ve faced because “we” didn’t cause them. That’s an assumption that would not be available to the SNP supporters anymore.

There are dozens of other reasons, but ultimately in my gut I don’t want independence. If you feel the opposite then get out and vote – it’s important. And regardless of the result on September 18th the losing side needs to accept it and move on; no finger-pointing or bitterness as the democratic power of the nation has been used.

However you choose to vote, get out and put that cross in the box of your choice.

JD

Sky – the art of the rip off

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It’s an open secret that Sky charges different people different amounts for their packages – threaten to leave and all of a sudden you are offered the deal of a lifetime. The other option is leave and phone up a couple of days later and you get the same deal. What price loyalty?

I’ve been a customer for over ten years now and I’ve only had a “deal” out of them once because we were moving so they gave us a fancy new box with more storage as we added multiroom. But this business model seems to be the same across all aspects of services from landlines and mobiles to cars and houses – there is more to eek out but you have to push the supplier to get it. I understand that they have to make a profit but why is loyalty in today’s market so undervalued.

Another example is banks – want a great credit card rate, a free overdraft and £100??? Then switch to someone else because your bank couldn’t care less about you – they have you so why should they work to keep you? To the man on the street it seems ridiculous that we are treated this way – and more to the point that we largely accept it as standard practice mostly because we’re too busy to change or think it’s going to be a hassle.

Surely if you offered a bonus package instead for milestones of continued loyalty you would not only retain the business but increase it. At five years your bank writes off your overdraft or your mortgage company gives you a three-month payment holiday. At ten years perhaps sky would give you a year’s free Sports and Movies package as a thank you for sticking with them.

It is a problem we see throughout society – being fickle and showing a slight interest gets a reward rather than hard work and loyalty. How often do you hear about the problem kids in schools getting trips and treats because they behaved for a week but the kids who get their heads down week in, week out are ignored. We reward the wrong people – those who move from company to company get huge wage increases but the loyal employees get left behind.

Sky’s model epitomise all that is wrong in terms of loyalty these days. Run off and dump the business or client and if they return give them the best deal possible – or stick with it and be punished. Just doesn’t add up for me.

JD

PS If you’ve read all nine hundred odd blogs I’ve written you are entitled to a lie down and a break. See, just rewards!