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Month: December 2012

Bob Costas uses his Prime Time TV audience to talk gun control laws after NFL murder-suicide.

If you have any knowledge of the US Sports scene then you’ll know of Bob Costas. He has been one of the faces and voices of sports broadcasting in the country for over 30 years. Part of his duties is to front NBC’s NFL TV coverage and on Sunday he worked the nationally televised Prime Time game as per usual. Just over 24 hours earlier a Kansas City Chief had killed his wife, driven to the stadium and thanked his coach and the general manager of the team before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide in front of them. Yet the next day the Kansas City Chiefs played their scheduled game.

It was a tragedy that a young two-month old baby girl lost both her parents. That a young woman was slayed in her prime. It is hard to feel any sympathy for the man who committed these crimes but you have to sense that he was deeply troubled. This though isn’t the point. The point is would these two people still be alive today if the second amendment to the US Constitution wasn’t in place.

Now Bob Costas used his privileged position to further his thoughts on this subject following a piece by noted columnist Jason Whitlock. In his piece ‘In KC, it’s no time for a game‘ Whitlock speaks first of all about why the game should have been cancelled but goes on to make the wider point about gun culture. Whitlock is a middle-aged black man and Costas is a older generation white man. Many think this is a racial issue and have slated Costas for his views but he was referencing Whitlock’s work.

To view Costas’ monologue please watch the inserted video below:

Here is the important part of Whitlock’s piece that Costas was referencing:

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

I personally do not have an issue with either Whitlock writing what he did nor Bob Costas using his position to talk on the subject. A large majority of the American public seem to. A significant proportion of people believe that Costas was ripping on black people as a lot of young black men in America believe that guns are an important part of their culture. So an attack on guns is an affront to them.

I disagree strongly. If Jevon Belcher didn’t own a gun then the likelihood is that two people would not be dead today and a young baby girl would not have been orphaned on Saturday morning. Over here in the UK we see an increasing amount of young people carrying around knifes to protect themselves but of course what we see is the likelihood of you using a knife is vastly increased if you have one on your person. When the adrenaline kicks in we as human beings do not make the best choices. You are more likely to be stabbed if you possess a knife when out and about than if you do not. It is the same with guns. If you don’t have one to hand then you are far less likely to ever use one.

The right to bear arms is an antiquated law but is one that will never change because of deep rooted beliefs. If guns were illegal then a few people with illegal guns would be able to carry out more crimes but with guns being so readily available it means that many, many more people will be shot and die at the hands of someone in a moment of passion or pique of anger. If you don’t have a weapon to hand then you are far less likely to go out and get one after the red mist has dissipated.

This was a terribly sad moment but alas it is all too uncommon. A friend of mine in New York was called up to do jury duty a while back and it was a murder case. He didn’t have to sit on it but I enquired saying that murder is a pretty big crime so it must be a big case and his response was cold saying that ‘it probably wouldn’t even make the papers.’ When a murder isn’t even a crime that makes the newspapers then something is wrong.

I think my view is pretty clear but I just wanted to defend Whitlock (whom I often do not agree with) and certainly Costas who used the largest TV audience of the night to hammer home his thoughts on the issue. Gun control is an issue that no American President will ever tackle because they are too scared to do so. This is a sad state of affairs but would an frank and open national news debate about gun control be a good thing? It sure would but it will never never happen. This is the type of news story I’d want Will McAvoy and his team to take on but I doubt anyone will.

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I thought Labour would easily win in 2015 but that might not actually be the case…

Labour have one of the easiest jobs in modern UK politics. Basically sit back and say they would do things differently whilst slagging off the Tories and the Lib Dems. It is just too easy for them and it is starting to feel like they are Ronnie Rosenthal and having rounded the Aston Villa goalkeeper the open goal that is gaping might not be filled with the football at their feet.

You see people aren’t stupid. Certainly not people who vote in a General Election. A lot of people get annoyed by it but most who troop down to the polling station will do so after having listened to a few bits on the news and read some stuff that has been pushed through their letterbox and/or on the internet at a minimum. So whilst the polls say one thing today that is not an accurate representation of how people will vote in 2015.

Today I sat here and listened to Ed Balls sound like the drunk uncle at a wedding reception who thinks that he knows everything. It was genuinely one of the worst performances in the House of Commons I have ever seen from a front bencher. He wanted to claim benefit for the petrol duty rise being scraped but his party wanted it only to be delayed until April instead of being scraped altogether. They brought a proposal in front of MPs and it was voted on just last month. They lost the vote by 48.

Now it is extremely fair to say that George Osbourne and I do not see eye to eye. I think he’s one of the most smarmy gits in the Commons and I also think he’s one of the stupidest members of the cabinet. However he schooled Ed Balls today.

Another big political point scoring point is the cut in the top level of tax for the rich. Politically this is easy for Labour as the majority of us think that the rich should pay more so the poor have to pay less. The thing is the higher the tax rate doesn’t automatically mean more money in the Treasury’s coffers. If anyone has ever played SimCity they’ll know that if you have a high rate of tax then your city doesn’t grow very quickly and the demand for new properties goes down. You’ll also know that you’ll raise money but not a lot. If you cut taxes then more people come into your city and therefore more people paying a lower level of tax is actually a healthier state of affairs.

The numbers the PM quoted in PMQs this afternoon have been quoted before and no-one has disputed them so we’ll take them as fact. At the 50p tax rate there were 6,000 people paying tax raising £6.7bn in taxes. The previous year when the 40p tax rate was in place 16,000 people were paying on that tax rate and they brought in £13.7bn in tax revenue for the Treasury. So more people paying less actually led to £7bn more money being raised. Isn’t the point of taxation to raise money for the Treasury and not political point scoring?

If you ask people on the doorstep today they’ll say they hate this policy but if they are reasonable and you can talk to them about this then they will listen to the facts. It is the same for the Lib Dems with regards to tuition fees. If you can get people to listen as you explain the new system they’ll be far less hostile. The same with the NHS when you ask people whether they had to pay for their A&E trip or whether they had to pay to visit the doctor or for physiotherapy or whatever. When outside an election the majority of people only listen to the news narrative but in an election period they are wiling to listen far more.

All Labour had to do was pillory the coalition parties whilst sounding credible with alternatives. Today they didn’t sound credible and their attempts at pillorying the coalition parties didn’t actually pass the smell test. As for credible alternatives…well yeah I don’t think I have to give that the time of day at this juncture. It seemed all too easy but maybe it is too easy and the two Ed’s will miss even worse than Ronnie missed and come 2015 the ball will be ballooned over the crossbar.

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The Asda Christmas Advert – Is it Sexist? Is it heck.

I’m a bit late to the party here (and that isn’t the first time that has ever happened) but I just saw the Asda Christmas advert for the first time and my initial reaction certainly wasn’t ‘well that is a pile of sexist junk’ but more of a ‘I fancy the actress playing the mother in the advert – I think I’ll Google it to see if I can find out who she is*.’ Well I Googled and apparently the advert has created a sexism row based on the fact it showed a mother working hard to put Christmas on and how it is all worth it because she saw a contented family at the day of the advert.

Well I can see why people get annoyed but really what is there to get annoyed about? Maybe the father is entertaining the kids and family whilst she is cooking the dinner? I remember distinctly that my mum hated anyone else being in her kitchen when she was cooking and knowing a fair few females that isn’t a complete rarity. Kitchen’s are not usually a place for several people and voices. There are other scenarios though in the advert that people are getting upset over. It has been an interesting read.

Over in The Telegraph in is argued by a female writer that the overreaction is not justified. The Daily Mail didn’t really add much to the discussion apart from claiming the Fathers4Justice are considering a ‘turkey sit-in’ at Asda stores if the advert isn’t pulled. Yeah lads. Good one… Mumsnet has a thread which is hilarious.

If you haven’t actually seen the advert is question then please view below.

The thing is we all have a very different view of Christmas. We all have different Christmas experiences and memories. It is impossible for advertisers to cover every single eventuality in a single advert. The truth is one parent in the majority of cases will do more of the work than the other. This isn’t to do with sexist ideals but one will likely either not work, or live closer to home than the other and therefore has more time or whatever.

Some people have said that the fact she cooked dinner in an apron is sexist. I mean really? Aprons are actually pretty practical items of clothing. Now I hardly ever cook and when I do I don’t wear an apron but – and this is 100% true – when I am frying sausages I do because the fat spits out everywhere and it used to always spit all over my clothes. It is just practical and isn’t a sign of sexism if a woman cooking is wearing an apron.

I hope the furore has calmed down as advertisers don’t have an easy job. A e-petition has been set up but it has only received 116 signatures (at the points of writing) and I’m happy it has flopped so badly. They have 30secs (or a minute if a long advert) to tell a story. They have to talk to the people that are buying their products the most. If you are advertising jewellery then in general you are advertising to women. If you are advertising sports kit then you are predominately advertising to men. It is just the way it is.

There is no sexism row here. Would it be better if they showed the husband doing something to help? Yes it would but then same-sex couples would say they are getting left out and so we go on.

For those that enjoy Christmas enjoy it. I’ll just do what I always do. Nothing. Grump grump grump. At least I’m not grumpy enough to get my back up about something that doesn’t really matter though…

*I didn’t find out the actress in the advert – all Asda have said is she is a ‘real Asda shopper.’ Also I know it is hard to believe that I fancied someone who isn’t ginger but it goes to show that I don’t just go for gingers…

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Do the Lib Dems need ‘Plastic Liberals?’

It is one of the biggest arguments on football message boards up and down the land. When a club is successful the hard core get annoyed at all the bandwagon jumpers. ‘Were you there when we were playing x in the pouring rain on a wet and miserable Tuesday night?’ they’ll ask. It has always caused tension as the hard core feel that they belong more and deserve a bigger say. If a manager is under pressure and they think he should go whereas the newcomers are still not sure then the hard core will feel that their voice is the one that should be heard.

Something similar is playing out within the Lib Dems. I blogged earlier today about Cllr Bob Blezzard quitting the party and his parting shot was the following:

“The principled party I joined under the leadership of Charles Kennedy in the wake of the Iraq war no longer exists under your leadership.”

The Iraq war. I think it is accurate to say that in the wake of the war the Lib Dems saw a significant upsurge in members. A lot of Labour voters and members were so unhappy by this action in the Gulf that they joined the party who were so very publicly opposed to military intervention. At that point the Lib Dems had no responsibilities and could basically be as ideological as they so desired as whatever they said or did didn’t actually matter. Things though have changed and now their actions actually have consequences and that has left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouth.

In the aftermath of the Iraq War there were three political parties with any real influence and the Lib Dems were very much the third of the three so if you were interested in politics and getting active about it then you had three choices. You had Labour who were actually running a pretty good economy but had had a bit of a faux pas on the Iraq War that led to many drifting away from them. You had the Tories who were still in disarray following a couple of pretty bad leadership choices and then you had the nice and inoffensive Lib Dems. Of course there were other parties but these were the three with a significant national base.

At this point many people thought that the third way was the best way but then the unthinkable happened – Labour lost the election and the Tories failed to win it either. Not ideal. When you couple this with the economical situation then things didn’t look good at all. The numbers meant that Labour and the Lib Dems couldn’t realistically form a coalition with any majority unless it was a proper rainbow coalition of pretty much ‘everyone against the Tories’ so the only coalition that could bring stable government was one of the Tories and the Lib Dems – something that did not sit well with most Lib Dems.

Well that is what we got and unsurprisingly given the economic climate and the fact that the Tories were the major party in the coalition the Lib Dems had to swallow hard and continue to do so regarding some of the things they are having to do. I am pretty confident that every single Lib Dem has seen several things come through parliament that deep down they were prefer not to do but coalitions are about give and take – not just take, take, take. That is how grown ups work.

So many Lib Dems have left the party saying they are making a ‘principled stand’ against what the national party are doing. It seems to me that the majority of these departures have been people who joined in the Charles Kennedy/Iraq War era. Now are these people ‘plastic liberals’ and should we care that they are leaving? We bloody well should care that is what I think.

The Lib Dems are a mix of people from a broad spectrum of politics and many join the party over one issue. The Iraq War was a big one as was Tuition Fees. Now the Iraq War has ended and the people who were blamed for it in the Labour Party have since moved on so it is easy for people to drift back from the Lib Dems to Labour as they can be forgiven. When Nick Clegg moves on (whenever that may be) it will give people the option to drift back to the Lib Dems should say Labour win the next election and make as unpopular of a decision as they did over the Iraq War. Tuition Fees is a different kettle of fish because at this juncture because both the other major parties want students to pay for their own education.

Many Lib Dems believe that because they have been in the party since the day the party was formed that they should have a more significant say and hate the fact that Nick Clegg is willing to concede ground to the Tories for making ground elsewhere. Some of the newer members – certainly those who have joined since the 2010 General Election (yes there are some – more than some) are clearly happy that the Lib Dems have moved from a party of protest to a party whose opinion actually has some influence. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and tell everyone how they should act but when you have to actually act like you say you want to then that is the sign of being grown up.

The fact is like football clubs – all political parties need ‘plastic fans’ and the Lib Dems more than the other two major parties. Look at UKIP. They are getting more members and doing well in by-elections because of one issue – people don’t like the EU and think we pay to much money and get too little and all those pesky (but sexy) eastern Europeans are coming over here and taking jobs, claiming benefits et al. That is a buzz topic just like the Iraq War was and UKIP have tapped into it. Now imagine if UKIP formed a coalition with say Labour or the Tories but weren’t able to get a referendum on EU membership or got one and lost it would UKIP haemorrhage members? Yes it would because people would think the one issue they joined the party over had become unobtainable or they had lost.

However in the meantime they have more members and a bigger movement and more effective on the ground. Do these one issue people just sit on their bums and do nothing or are they active? They are the latter. So the Lib Dems need to embrace and not lampoon members who choose to leave because their one issue they joined over is not an issue any more or is something the party cannot deliver in the foreseeable future.

Whilst it must be hard at times to see people come and then go whilst you are always there delivering a focus on a wet Saturday morning we all have to remember that the party needs all the help it can get and that we need to embrace those who are new even if we wonder how long they’ll be about. If it was just the hardcore liberals within the party then we would get nowhere just like your local football club. They need fair-weather fans and the Lib Dems need one issue members who will work hard to bring their one issue into the limelight and into law. Call them ‘plastic liberals’ if you like but without them all we are is a bunch of idealists who are swimming against the stream and we are no trout.

If someone has an issue that we are passionate over then lets welcome them with open arms. It would be obviously preferable if in time they took on other causes that we are passionate over and then they would be more likely to stay on and be active if the one issue they initially cared about was won or decisively lost. Even if not though hopefully local parties all over the country welcome new people and bring them into the fold as much as possible because the more people feel as though their voice is being heard and their work is appreciated and worthwhile then the happier they’ll be. Even if Lib Dems get annoyed nationally they can do good work locally and that is something we should all remember.

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‘Clegg forced me to quit’ says Isle of Wight Lib Dem Parish & Town Councillor

My fingers are so cold that I mis-typed that title three times. Seriously my heating needs to work faster…

Anyway yes. Another day and another Lib Dem member and this time Town and Parish councillor has left the party stating that the reason is the leader of the party. Speaking to what is without a doubt one of the most successful local rags in the country – the Isle of Wight County Press Cllr Bob Blezzard said that he has sent a letter to Nick Clegg with the following:

“Failure to honour the pledge on tuition fees, when you did not even take advantage of your negotiated agreement to abstain, has done incalculable damage to the reputation of the party and to public trust in it. The damage was compounded by your cringing and clearly insincere apology, which resulted in you rightly being publicly lampooned.

“The cutback in support for among the poorest and most vulnerable in society by cutting council tax benefit by ten per cent while cutting tax for millionaires only reinforces my concern you are simply following a Tory agenda with a few crumbs being thrown to the Lib Dems to keep members quiet.

“The principled party I joined under the leadership of Charles Kennedy in the wake of the Iraq war no longer exists under your leadership.”

Now I want to just bring up a couple of points about this departure from the party. Firstly not a few days ago Bob was running for the ELDR in the Lib Dem internal elections. He lost. Badly. Now I’m not going to say that the two are linked because that is lazy but what I will say is I have seen people run for internal positions within the Lib Dems and lose and then quit the party extremely soon afterwards. I’d have thought that if you felt that you were drifting away from the party that running for internal office wouldn’t be a wise move? Had he won would he then have still quit and then someone who has lost been promoted? Logically internal office would be for those who are fully invested with the party and not for those who are having second thoughts.

Secondly his departure has caused quite a ruckus on the Alliance of Liberal Democrats Facebook page. Who could have thought that leafy sandal wearing liberals could get so personal? Insults flying around the joint like they were going out of business and were on a ‘say one get ten free’ offer.

Also I’d like to say that whilst the apology could be taken in many ways it certainly was not insincere. When the DPM told me that he ‘thought about saying sorry every day’ I fully believed him and still do. I don’t think for one moment he chose to vote for tuition fee hikes without feeling sincere regret. As for him being publicly lampooned. Yeah right…it hardly even made a blip on the media radar and the same with the public. So that I think is grossly inaccurate.

Now I’m not sure here but I do believe George Osbourne is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not Nick Clegg. Of course the Lib Dems get a say in the budget but they don’t write the budget. Now the tax cut for millionaires bit really irks me as the 50p rate was in place for what was it – 36 days under Labour? With a 40p tax rate being the norm for the rest of their government. It seems like political point scoring to put the higher band tax rate up for such a short time knowing that if they lost it would probably be lowered. A very clever political manoeuvre as most people won’t realise this.

Does Bob think that things like upping the Income Tax threshold and taking millions out of paying Income Tax altogether is ‘crumbs?’ Are Green issues and successes ‘crumbs?’ Is the Pupil Premium ‘crumbs?’ Is Equal Marriage legislation going to be ‘crumbs?’ The Lib Dems quite simply can’t win them all and for those who think that they can block everything that the Tories do then they need to look at how coalitions actually work.

His final sentence though is something I will explore in greater detail in a subsequent blog post as the people who joined under Charles Kennedy over the Iraq issue are deserting the party in their droves (I have no evidence to back this up but it does seem that out of the people that I know who have actually quit it is this section who have left more than the rest) and it is an interesting thing to debate and hypothesise over.

So yes another member and councillor gone from a former stomping ground of mine. I remember the days when we stole the Isle of Wight following the Tory collapse in 1997 but the Isle of Wight is proper blue and it is of no surprise that the Tories regained it in 2001 and continue to dominate the political landscape here as the demographics are about as blue as you can get. It is disappointing that he has chosen to leave the party (as it is when most people leave the party) but his final sentence in that letter to Nick Clegg is worthy of some further blogging…

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