America’s smoking gun

America has many, many faults. That much is undeniable. The recent spate of shootings in the US and the fact that a Democrat is sitting in the White House with a majority in both houses of Congress, has given credence to the possibility of Barack Obama tackling arms control. Some kind of ban is a long overdue change yet to be implemented in a country where taking drugs without intent to distribute can lead to a hefty spell behind bars but carrying a deadly weapon in your back pocket is seen as the norm. Carry an eighth of dope in your pocket and you’re branded enemy number one. Carry a killing weapon and you’re nothing short of a patriot.

Americans still have a remarkably laissez faire attitude to guns, at least compared to other issues. As George F. Will notes in The Washington Post, one and a half million people were arrested last year on drugs-related charges and over half a million were imprisoned. War on drugs. Peace on weapons of war.

You can even join a club to celebrate your gun, the notorious NRA (National Rifle Association). The Legalise Cannabis Alliance wouldn’t get anywhere in America without getting shipped to the nearest penitentiary, let alone have elected politicians cower before them, as they do with the N.R.A.

America’s Constitution, written in 1787, allowed the citizens of the United States to “bear arms”. In 18th Century America, this was understandable. You couldn’t so much as hang around the local saloon bar without getting shot – we’ve seen the Spaghetti Western movies.

The attitude of rednecks up and down the US – the kind that chews matchsticks, wear string vests and commit incest – is that “if some crazy gunman wants to come near my family, I want to defend them”. This attitude gets no-one anywhere. It encourages others to take up arms through fear until every citizen in a state like Texas has more guns under their pillows than Britain can afford for its serving soldiers.

The ironic thing is, according to several newspaper reports, a gunman who shot thirteen people dead said in his suicide note that a key reason for doing what he did was his fear that President Obama would ban guns! Well, that showed him, didn’t it? That’s really gonna help!

Another phenomenon doing well in America, and one which is no less brain-destroying than guns, is High School Musical (sorry for slipping from a rant about gun control to a diatribe against popular television without even attempting to segue between the topics). The gloopy cash-cow franchise has to date released three movies and has experienced more spin-offs than a dradel. It makes ridiculous amounts of money from their fawning fans across the globe; usually girls aged 7-13, all dreamy and glass-eyed in adoration of their teen heart throbs.

This market is fed bilge of the highest degree, including Zac Effron the High School champ. Like the cast of American Pie before him, Effron is clearly far too old to be attending High School, thus propagating the myth that all teenage boys are tall, handsome and more sensitive than a Litmus Test on Diet Coke.

Luckily, as they grow up, these extremely impressionable youngsters realise we’re all just a bunch of wankers; egotistical, nightmarish monsters, who want all the fun stuff of a relationship (sex, err, that’s it) and none of the boring stuff (meeting the parents, being nice, actually spending time together – all that jazz).

Furthermore, they realise that not every teenage boy has perfect skin, immaculate hair, a good singing voice and the ability to dance to more sophisticated tunes than YMCA by the Village People at their Nan’s wedding.

Unfortunately for boys looking to replicate Zac, it is extraordinarily rare for any one person to pertain all of these abilities. Someone may dance like Justin Timberlake and sing like Prince, but he probably looks like the kind of person you could lose in the vegetable aisle of Sainsbury’s due to their facial resemblance to a sack of spuds. 

It all boils down to one simple fact; life ain’t as good as the movies. Besides, these girls must know the reality of school life doesn’t involve breaking out into horrid, cheesy pop tunes and dancing on top of the school dining tables every five minutes, so maybe they actually do realise that us young men are not like Zac at all and most of us are insecure twats. I do hope so, or my life will have just become ten times more difficult.

High School Musical has become that rare thing; a decent counter-argument for gun control. Oops.

Money-loving careerists

Pinpointing the end of this government may be a difficult task. Yet the signs aren’t looking good, with sleaze staring to pile up against 10 Downing Street’s door like sandbags in Tewkesbury following a rainy afternoon.

The Home Secretary’s husband was caught paying for porn movies on MPs expenses and the latest blunder involves Bob Quick from the Intelligence Services, who left secret memorandums in full view of waiting photographers, a cock-up which must win him the “Most Egregious Schoolboy Error of the Year” award.

Due to his idiocy, a major anti-terrorist operation had to be bought forward dramatically, leading to twelve arrests and a lot of head-scratching. Mr. Quick was rather speedy in handing in his resignation less than twenty-four hours later, suggesting his name is more a description of character than a family moniker.

London Mayor Boris Johnson accepted his resignation with “sadness”. He also said in his statement accepting Mr. Quick’s resignation that there had been no “witch hunt” to remove him from office. This is an interesting interpretation on the morning newspapers, all of which said he should sod off. The only reason his offices weren’t smashed in like those of RBS at the G20 protests was because he resigned immediately. To say Bob Quick wasn’t subjected to a witch hunt is like saying Adolf Hitler wasn’t subjected to one either as he killed himself so soon after the Second World War ended.

The Tories jumped on the story, sending their Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling on to every news channel in Britain, questioning serious lapses of governmental judgement.

Such examples of opportunism are commonplace in the hurly-burly world of politics but that doesn’t excuse the fact he looks like a Kinder Egg Surprise without the surprise. His strained interview style gives the impression that even he is shocked to be elevated to such a key role. He doesn’t seem like a Shadow Home Secretary. More a desk-pushing blotter-jotter from Conservative Party HQ, who was asked to fill a position which required someone to look “a little tough, but not too so, and a little bit like William Hague’s less bald cousin”, a job he fulfils with aplomb.

But it’s MPs expenses which has created more stroppy front page headlines than anything else in the past twelve months (in which we have nearly been massacred by Avian Flu, witnessed Beijing horrifically destroying Human Rights at the Olympics and survived the latest U2 album, though the latter nearly ended me).

The system by which Members of Parliament can claim expenses for light bulbs, glue and the odd pornographic movie is quite extraordinary. Jacqui Smith’s husband was probably unaware of the strife he would cause his wife when he ordered the blue movies and settled in front of the telly for a night of hardcore action. Hopefully the spouses of politicians will now think twice before purchasing a three month pass for Climax 3.

The whole debacle has created another populist outpouring of rage against politicians, all of whom are tarred with the same brush as the sizeable minority of pocket-lining selfish shysters who populate the House of Commons.

Gordon Brown recently hurried along the independent review into MPs expenses during PM’s Question Time although the extent to which David Cameron could harass the Prime Minister was limited by his own party’s MPs being money-grabbing careerists too. Many Tory expenses haven’t come out of the woodwork yet. The Daily Telegraph promises us they will reveal all soon.

Aside from interviews where he repeats that any mistreatment of the system is wrong, Cameron can’t push the envelope too much as his own party are just as culpable. The judgments our elected representatives make in Parliament are being severely undermined. It must now be impossible to take Jacqui Smith’s policy ideas seriously, now her credibility is at rock bottom. On the one hand, this might seem like a reason to jump ecstatically on behalf of humanity. But informed decisions affecting us all won’t be reached if the swinging axe of their expenses dangles menacingly above their heads.

It only takes one wag to say: “So you want to tackle immigration with these measures, Mrs. Smith. Well, I don’t care for the idea, but I’m interested to know if your husband got the Spice Extreme Channel or just kept with the basic package”. Nothing will happen. Ever.